(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The wings of the dove"

HANDBOUND 
AT THE 



UNIVERSITY OF 
TORONTO PPncc 



THE NOVELS AND TALES OF 
HENRY JAMES 



New York Edition 

VOLUME XIX 



- 



THE WINGS OF 
THE DOVE 



BY 



HENRY JAMES 



VOLUME I 




NEW YORK 

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 

1909 



' 



Copyright, 1902 and 1909, by Charles Scribner's Sons 

PS 

2.MC* 

- - W 5- 
l 

V- 



PREFACE 

THE WINGS OF THE DOVE," published in 1902, represents 
to my memory a very old if I should n't perhaps rather 
say a very young motive ; I can scarce remember the time 
when the situation on which this long-drawn fiction mainly 
rests was not vividly present to me. The idea, reduced to 
its essence, is that a of young person conscious of a great 
capacity for life, but early stricken and doomed, condemned 
to die under short respite, while also enamoured of the 
world ; aware moreover of the condemnation and passion 
ately desiring to " put in " before extinction as many of the 
finer vibrations as possible, and so achieve, however briefly 
and brokenly, the sense of having lived. Long had I turned 
it over, standing off from it, yet coming back to it ; con 
vinced of what might be done with it, yet seeing the theme 
as formidable. The image so figured would be, at best, but 
half the matter ; the rest would be all the picture of the 
struggle involved, the adventure brought about, the gain re 
corded or the loss incurred, the precious experience some 
how compassed. These things, I had from the first felt, 
would require much working-out ; that indeed was the case 
with most things worth working at all ; yet there are sub 
jects and subjects, and this one seemed particularly to bristle. 
It was formed, I judged, to make the wary adventurer walk 
round and round it it had in fact a charm that invited and 
mystified alike that attention ; not being somehow what one 
thought of as a " frank " subject, after the fashion of some, 
with its elements well in view and its whole character in its 
face. It stood there with secrets and compartments, with 
possible treacheries and traps ; it might have a great deal to 
give, but would probably ask for equal services in return, 
and would collect this debt to the last shilling. It involved, 
to begin with, the placing in the strongest light a person 
infirm and ill a case sure to prove difficult and to require 



PREFACE 

much handling ; though giving perhaps, with other matters, 
one of those chances for good taste, possibly even for the 
play of the very best in the world, that are not only always 
to be invoked and cultivated, but that are absolutely to be 
jumped at from the moment they make a sign. 

Yes then, the case prescribed for its central figure a sick 
young woman, at the whole course of whose disintegration 
and the whole ordeal of whose consciousness one would 
have quite honestly to assist. The expression of her state 
and that of one's intimate relation to it might therefore well 
need to be discreet and ingenious ; a reflexion that fortun 
ately grew and grew, however, in proportion as I focussed 
my image roundabout which, as it persisted, I repeat, the 
interesting possibilities and the attaching wonderments, not 
to say the insoluble mysteries, thickened apace. Why had 
one to look so straight in the face and so closely to cross- 
question that idea of making one's protagonist "sick"? 
as if to be menaced with death or danger had n't been from 
time immemorial, for heroine or hero, the very shortest of 
all cuts to the interesting state. Why should a figure be 
disqualified for a central position by the particular circum 
stance that might most quicken, that might crown with a 
fine intensity, its liability to many accidents, its conscious 
ness of all relations ? This circumstance, true enough, might 
disqualify it for many activities even though we should 
have imputed to it the unsurpassable activity of passionate, 
of inspired resistance. This last fact was the real issue, for 
the way grew straight from the moment one recognised that 
the poet essentially can't be concerned with the act of dying. 
Let him deal with the sickest of the sick, it is still by the 
act of living that they appeal to him, and appeal the more 
as the conditions plot against them and prescribe the battle. 
The process of life gives way fighting, and often may so 
shine out on the lost ground as in no other connexion. 
One had had moreover, as a various chronicler, one's sec 
ondary physical weaklings and failures, one's accessory in 
valids introduced with a complacency that made light of 
criticism. To Ralph Touchett in "The Portrait of a Lady," 

vi 



PREFACE 

for instance, his deplorable state of health was not only no 
drawback ; I had clearly been right in counting it, for any 
happy effect he should produce, a positive good mark, a di 
rect aid to pleasantness and vividness. The reason of this 
moreover could never in the world have been his fact of 
sex ; since men, among the mortally afflicted, suffer on the 
whole more overtly and more grossly than women, and re 
sist with a ruder, an inferior strategy. I had thus to take 
that anomaly for what it was worth, and I give it here but 
as one of the ambiguities amid which my subject ended by 
making itself at home and seating itself quite in confidence. 
With the clearness I have just noted, accordingly, the 
last thing in the world it proposed to itself was to be the 
record predominantly of a collapse. I don't mean to say that 
my offered victim was not present to my imagination, con 
stantly, as dragged by a greater force than any she herself 
could exert ; she had been given me from far back as con 
testing every inch of the road, as catching at every object 
the grasp of which might make for delay, as clutching these 
things to the last moment of her strength. Such an attitude 
and such movements, the passion they expressed and the 
success they in fact represented, what were they in truth but 
the soul of drama ? which is the portrayal, as we know, 
of a catastrophe determined in spite of oppositions. My 
young woman would herself be the opposition to the 
catastrophe announced by the associated Fates, powers con 
spiring to a sinister end and, with their command of means, 
finally achieving it, yet in such straits really to stifle the 
sacred spark that, obviously, a creature so animated, an ad 
versary so subtle, could n't but be felt worthy, under what 
ever weaknesses, of the foreground and the limelight. She 
would meanwhile wish, moreover, all along, to live for par 
ticular things, she would found her struggle on particular 
human interests, which would inevitably determine, in re 
spect to her, the attitude of other persons, persons affected 
in such a manner as to make them part of the action. If her 
impulse to wrest from her shrinking hour still as much of 
the fruit of life as possible, if this longing can take effect 

vii 



PREFACE 

only by the aid of others, their participation (appealed to, 
entangled and coerced as they find themselves) becomes 
their drama too that of their promoting her illusion, under 
her importunity, for reasons, for interests and advantages, 
from motives and points of view, of their own. Some of 
these promptings, evidently, would be of the highest order 
others doubtless might n't ; but they would make up to 
gether, for her, contributively, her sum of experience, re 
present to her somehow, in good faith or in bad, what she 
should have known. Somehow, too, at such a rate, one would 
see the persons subject to them drawn in as by some pool 
of a Lorelei see them terrified and tempted and charmed ; 
bribed away, it may even be, from more prescribed and nat 
ural orbits, inheriting from their connexion with her strange 
difficulties and still stranger opportunities, confronted with 
rare questions and called upon for new discriminations. 
Thus the scheme of her situation would, in a comprehens 
ive way, see itself constituted; the rest of the interest 
would be in the number and nature of the particulars. 
Strong among these, naturally, the need that life should, 
apart from her infirmity, present itself to our young woman 
as quite dazzlingly liveable, and that if the great pang for 
her is in what she must give up we shall appreciate it the 
more from the sight of all she has. 

One would see her then as possessed of all things, all but 
the single most precious assurance ; freedom and money and 
a mobile mind and personal charm, the power to interest 
and attach ; attributes, each one, enhancing the value of a 
future. From the moment his imagination began to deal with 
her at close quarters, in fact, nothing could more engage 
her designer than to work out the detail of her perfect right- 
ness for her part ; nothing above all more solicit him than 
to recognise fifty reasons for her national and social status. 
She should be the last fine flower blooming alone, for 
the fullest attestation of her freedom of an " old " New 
York stem ; the happy congruities thus preserved for her 
being matters, however, that I may not now go into, and 
this even though the fine association that shall yet elsewhere 

viii 



PREFACE 

await me is of a sort, at the best, rather to defy than to en 
courage exact expression. There goes with it, for the hero 
ine of " The Wings of the Dove," a strong and special 
implication of liberty, liberty of action, of choice, of appre 
ciation, of contact proceeding from sources that provide 
better for large independence, I think, than any other con 
ditions in the world and this would be in particular what 
we should feel ourselves deeply concerned with. I had from 
far back mentally projected a certain sort of young Ameri 
can as more the " heir of all the ages " than any other 
young person whatever (and precisely on those grounds I 
have just glanced at but to pass them by for the moment) ; 
so that here was a chance to confer on some such figure a 
supremely touching value. To be the heir of all the ages 
only to know yourself, as that consciousness should deepen, 
balked of your inheritance, would be to play the part, it 
struck me, or at least to arrive at the type, in the light on 
the whole the most becoming. Otherwise, truly, what a 
perilous part to play out what a suspicion of u swagger " 
in positively attempting it ! So at least I could reason so 
I even think I had to to keep my subject to a decent 
compactness. For already, from an early stage, it had begun 
richly to people itself: the difficulty was to see whom the 
situation I had primarily projected might, by this, that or 
the other turn, not draw in. My business was to watch its 
turns as the fond parent watches a child perched, for its first 
riding-lesson, in the saddle ; yet its interest, I had all the 
while to recall, was just in its making, on such a scale, for 
developments. 

What one had discerned, at all events, from an early 
stage, was that a young person so devoted and exposed, a 
creature with her security hanging so by a hair, could n't 
but fall somehow into some abysmal trap this being, 
dramatically speaking, what such a situation most naturally 
implied and imposed. Did n't the truth and a great part of 
the interest also reside in the appearance that she would 
constitute for others (given her passionate yearning to live 
while she might) a complication as great as any they might 

IX 



PREFACE 

constitute for herself? which is what I mean when I 
speak of such matters as " natural." They would be as nat 
ural, these tragic, pathetic, ironic, these indeed for the most 
part sinister, liabilities, to her living associates, as they could 
be to herself as prime subject. If her story was to consist, 
as it could so little help doing, of her being let in, as we say, 
for this, that and the other irreducible anxiety, how could 
she not have put a premium on the acquisition, by any close 
sharer of her life, of a consciousness similarly embarrassed ? 
I have named the Rhine-maiden, but our young friend's 
existence would create rather, all round her, very much that 
whirlpool movement of the waters produced by the sinking 
of a big vessel or the failure of a great business ; when we 
figure to ourselves the strong narrowing eddies, the immense 
force of suction, the general engulfment that, for any neigh 
bouring object, makes immersion inevitable. I need scarce 
say, however, that in spite of these communities of doom I 
saw the main dramatic complication much more prepared 
for my vessel of sensibility than by her the work of other 
hands (though with her own imbrued too, after all, in the 
measure of their never not being, in some direction, gener 
ous and extravagant, and thereby provoking). 

The great point was, at all events, that if in a predica 
ment she was to be, accordingly, it would be of the essence 
to create the predicament promptly and build it up solidly, 
so that it should have for us as much as possible its ominous 
air of awaiting her. That reflexion I found, betimes, not 
less inspiring than urgent ; one begins so, in such a business, 
by looking about for one's compositional key, unable as one 
can only be to move till one has found it. To start without 
it is to pretend to enter the train and, still more, to remain 
in one's seat, without a ticket. Well in the steady light 
and for the continued charm of these verifications I had 
secured my ticket over the tolerably long line laid down for 
u The Wings of the Dove " from the moment I had noted 
that there could be no full presentation of Milly Theale as 
engaged with elements amid which she was to draw her 
breath in such pain, should not the elements have been, with 

x 



PREFACE 

all solicitude, duly prefigured. If one had seen that her 
stricken state was but half her case, the correlative half 
being the state of others as affected by her (they too should 
have a " case," bless them, quite as much as she !) then I 
was free to choose, as it were, the half with which I should 
begin. If, as I had fondly noted, the little world determined 
for her was to "bristle" I delighted in the term! with 
meanings, so, by the same token, could I but make my medal 
hang free, its obverse and its reverse, its face and its back, 
would beautifully become optional for the spectator. I some 
how wanted them correspondingly embossed, wanted them 
inscribed and figured with an equal salience ; yet it was 
none the less visibly my " key," as I have said, that though 
my regenerate young New Yorker, and what might depend 
on her, should form my centre, my circumference was every 
whit as treatable. Therefore I must trust myself to know 
when to proceed from the one and when from the other. 
Preparatively and, as it were, yearningly given the whole 
ground one began, in the event, with the outer ring, ap 
proaching the centre thus by narrowing circumvallations. 
There, full-blown, accordingly, from one hour to the other, 
rose one's process for which there remained all the while 
so many amusing formulae. 

The medal did hang free I felt this perfectly, I remem 
ber, from the moment I had comfortably laid the ground 
provided in my first Book, ground from which Milly is 
superficially so absent. I scarce remember perhaps a case 
I like even with this public grossness to insist on it in which 
the curiosity of " beginning far back," as far back as pos 
sible, and even of going, to the same tune, far " behind," that 
is behind the face of the subject, was to assert itself with 
less scruple. The free hand, in this connexion, was above 
all agreeable the hand the freedom of which I owed to the 
fact that the work had ignominiously failed, in advance, of 
all power to see itself " serialised." This failure had repeat 
edly waited, for me, upon shorter fictions; but the consider 
able production we here discuss was (as "The Golden Bowl" 
was to be, two or three years later) born, not otherwise than 

xi 



PREFACE 

a little bewilderedly, into a world of periodicals and editors, 
of roaring " successes " in fine, amid which it was well-nigh 
unnotedly to lose itself. There is fortunately something brac 
ing, ever, in the alpine chill, that of some high icy arete, shed 
by the cold editorial shoulder; sour grapes may at moments 
fairly intoxicate and the story-teller worth his salt rejoice to 
feel again how many accommodations he can practise. Those 
addressed to " conditions of publication " have in a degree 
their interesting, or at least their provoking, side ; but their 
charm is qualified by the fact that the prescriptions here 
spring from a soil often wholly alien to the ground of the 
work itself. They are almost always the fruit of another air 
altogether and conceived in a light liable to represent within 
the circle of the work itself little else than darkness. Still, 
when not too blighting, they often operate as a tax on ingen 
uity that ingenuity of the expert craftsman which likes to 
be taxed very much to the same tune to which a well-bred 
horse likes to be saddled. The best and finest ingenuities, 
nevertheless, with all respect to that truth, are apt to be, not 
one's compromises, but one's fullest conformities, and I well 
remember, in the case before us, the pleasure of feeling my 
divisions, my proportions and general rhythm, rest all on 
permanent rather than in any degree on momentary pro 
prieties. It was enough for my alternations, thus, that they 
were good in themselves ; it was in fact so much for them 
that I really think any further account of the constitution 
of the book reduces itself to a just notation of the law they 
followed. 

There was the u fun," to begin with, of establishing one's 
successive centres of fixing them so exactly that the por 
tions of the subject commanded by them as by happy points 
of view, and accordingly treated from them, would consti 
tute, so to speak, sufficiently solid blocks of wrought material, 
squared to the sharp edge, as to have weight and mass and 
carrying power ; to make for construction, that is, to con 
duce to effect and to provide for beauty. Such a block, 
obviously, is the whole preliminary presentation of Kate 
Croy, which, from the first, I recall, absolutely declined to 

xii 



PREFACE 

enact itself save in terms of amplitude. Terms of ampli 
tude, terms of atmosphere, those terms, and those terms 
only, in which images assert their fulness and roundness, 
their power to revolve, so that they have sides and backs, 
parts in the shade as true as parts in the sun these were 
plainly to be my conditions, right and left, and I was so far 
from overrating the amount of expression the whole thing, 
as I saw and felt it, would require, that to retrace the way 
at present is, alas, more than anything else, but to mark the 
gaps and the lapses, to miss, one by one, the intentions that, 
with the best will in the world, were not to fructify. I have 
just said that the process of the general attempt is described 
from the moment the" blocks "are numbered, and that would 
be a true enough picture of my plan. Yet one's plan, alas, 
is one thing and one's result another; so that I am perhaps 
nearer the point in saying that this last strikes me at present 
as most characterised by the happy features that were, under 
my first and most blest illusion, to have contributed to it. 
I meet them all, as I renew acquaintance, I mourn for them 
all as I remount the stream, the absent values, the palpable 
voids, the missing links, the mocking shadows, that reflect, 
taken together, the early bloom of one's good faith. Such 
cases are of course far from abnormal so far from it that 
some acute mind ought surely to have worked out by this 
time the "law" of the degree in which the artist's energy 
fairly depends on his fallibility. How much and how often, 
and in what connexions and with what almost infinite variety, 
must he be a dupe, that of his prime object, to be at all measur 
ably a master, that of his actual substitute for it or in other 
words at all appreciably to exist ? He places, after an earnest 
survey, the piers of his bridge he has at least sounded deep 
enough, heaven knows, for their brave position; yet the 
bridge spans the stream, after the fact, in apparently com 
plete independence of these properties, the principal grace 
of the original design. They were an illusion, for their neces 
sary hour; but the span itself, whether of a single arch or 
of many, seems by the oddest chance in the world to be a 
reality ; since, actually, the rueful builder, passing under it, 

xiii 



PREFACE 

sees figures and hears sounds above : he makes out, with his 
heart in his throat, that it bears and is positively being 
used." 

The building-up of Kate Croy's consciousness to the 
capacity for the load little by little to be laid on it was, 
by way of example, to have been a matter of as many hun 
dred close-packed bricks as there are actually poor dozens. 
The image of her so compromised and compromising father 
was all effectively to have pervaded her life, was in a cer 
tain particular way to have tampered with her spring ; by 
which I mean that the shame and the irritation and the 
depression, the general poisonous influence of him, were to 
have been shown^ with a truth beyond the compass even of 
one's most emphasised u word of honour " for it, to do these 
things. But where do we find him, at this time of day, 
save in a beggarly scene or two which scarce arrives at the 
dignity of functional reference ? He but " looks in," poor 
beautiful dazzling, damning apparition that he was to have 
been ; he sees his place so taken, his company so little missed, 
that, cocking again that fine form of hat which has yielded 
him for so long his one effective cover, he turns away with 
a whistle of indifference that nobly misrepresents the deepest 
disappointment of his life. One's poor word of honour has 
had to pass muster for the show. Every one, in short, was to 
have enjoyed so much better a chance that, like stars of the 
theatre condescending to oblige, they have had to take small 
parts, to content themselves with minor identities, in order 
to come on at all. I have n't the heart now, I confess, to 
adduce the detail of so many lapsed importances ; the ex 
planation of most of which, after all, I take to have been in 
the crudity of a truth beating full upon me through these 
reconsiderations, the odd inveteracy with which picture, at 
almost any turn, is jealous of drama, and drama (though on 
the whole with a greater patience, I think) suspicious of 
picture. Between them, no doubt, they do much for the 
theme ; yet each baffles insidiously the other's ideal and eats 
round the edges of its position ; each is too ready to say " I 
can take the thing for ' done ' only when done in my way." 

xiv 



PREFACE 

The residuum of comfort for the witness of these broils is 
of course meanwhile in the convenient reflexion, invented 
for him in the twilight of time and the infancy of art by the 
Angel, not to say by the Demon, of Compromise, that 
nothing is so easy to " do " as not to be thankful for almost 
any stray help in its getting done. It was n't, after this fashion, 
by making good one's dream of Lionel Croy that my struct 
ure was to stand on its feet any more than it was by let 
ting him go that I was to be left irretrievably lamenting. 
The who and the what, the how and the why, the whence 
and the whither of Merton Densher, these, no less, were 
quantities and attributes that should have danced about him 
with the antique grace of nymphs and fauns circling round 
a bland Hermes and crowning him with flowers. One's 
main anxiety, for each one's agents, is that the air of each 
shall be given ; but what does the whole thing become, after 
all, as one goes, but a series of sad places at which the hand 
of generosity has been cautioned and stayed? The young 
man's situation, personal, professional, social, was to have 
been so decanted for us that we should get all the taste ; we 
were to have been penetrated with Mrs. Lowder, by the 
same token, saturated with her presence, her " personality," 
and felt all her weight in the scale. We were to have re 
velled in Mrs. Stringham, my heroine's attendant friend, her 
fairly choral Bostonian, a subject for innumerable touches, 
and in an extended and above all an animated reflexion of 
Milly Theale's experience of English society ; just as the 
strength and sense of the situation in Venice, for our gath 
ered friends, was to have come to us in a deeper draught 
out of a larger cup, and just as the pattern of Densher's 
final position and fullest consciousness there was to have 
been marked in fine stitches, all silk and gold, all pink and 
silver, that have had to remain, alas, but entwined upon the 
reel. 

It is n't, no doubt, however to recover, after all, our 
critical balance that the pattern did n't, for each compart 
ment, get itself somehow wrought, and that we might n't 
thus, piece by piece, opportunity offering, trace it over and 

XV 



PREFACE 

study it. The thing has doubtless, as a whole, the advant 
age that each piece is true to its pattern, and that while it 
pretends to make no simple statement it yet never lets go 
its scheme of clearness. Applications of this scheme are 
continuous and exemplary enough, though I scarce leave 
myself room to glance at them. The clearness is obtained in 
Book First or otherwise, as I have said, in the first 
" piece," each Book having its subordinate and contributive 
pattern through the associated consciousness of my two 
prime young persons, for whom I early recognised that I 
should have to consent, under stress, to a practical fusion 
of consciousness. It is into the young woman's " ken " that 
Merton Densher is represented as swimming ; but her mind 
is not here, rigorously, the one reflector. There are occa 
sions when it plays this part, just as there are others when 
his plays it, and an intelligible plan consists naturally not a 
little in fixing such occasions and making them, on one side 
and the other, sufficient to themselves. Do I sometimes in 
fact forfeit the advantage of that distinctness ? Do I ever 
abandon one centre for another after the former has been 
postulated? From the moment we proceed by "centres" 
and I have never, I confess, embraced the logic of any su 
perior process they must be, each, as a basis, selected and 
fixed ; after which it is that, in the high interest of economy 
of treatment, they determine and rule. There is no economy 
of treatment without an adopted, a related point of view, 
and though I understand, under certain degrees of pressure, 
a represented community of vision between several parties 
to the action when it makes for concentration, I understand 
no breaking-up of the register, no sacrifice of the recording 
consistency, that does n't rather scatter and weaken. In this 
truth resides the secret of the discriminated occasion that 
aspect of the subject which we have our noted choice of 
treating either as picture or scenically, but which is apt, 
I think, to show its fullest worth in the Scene. Beautiful 
exceedingly, for that matter, those occasions or parts of an 
occasion when the boundary line between picture and scene 
bears a little the weight of the double pressure. 

xvi 



PREFACE 

Such would be the case, I can't but surmise, for the long 
passage that forms here before us the opening of Book Fourth, 
where all the offered life centres, to intensity, in the disclos 
ure of Milly's single throbbing consciousness, but where, 
for a due rendering, everything has to be brought to a head. 
This passage, the view of her introduction to Mrs. Lowder's 
circle, has its mate, for illustration, later on in the book and 
at a crisis for which the occasion submits to another rule. 
My registers or " reflectors," as I so conveniently name them 
(burnished indeed as they generally are by the intelligence, 
the curiosity, the passion, the force of the moment, what 
ever it be, directing them), work, as we have seen, in ar 
ranged alternation ; so that in the second connexion I here 
glance at it is Kate Croy who is, " for all she is worth," 
turned on. She is turned on largely at Venice, where the 
appearances, rich and obscure and portentous (another word 
I rejoice in) as they have by that time become and alto 
gether exquisite as they remain, are treated almost wholly 
through her vision of them and Densher's (as to the 
lucid interplay of which conspiring and conflicting agents 
there would be a great deal to say). It is in Kate's con 
sciousness that at the stage in question the drama is brought 
to a head, and the occasion on which, in the splendid 
saloon of poor Milly's hired palace, she takes the measure 
of her friend's festal evening, squares itself to the same syn 
thetic firmness as the compact constructional block inserted 
by the scene at Lancaster Gate. Milly's situation ceases at 
a given moment to be " renderable " in terms closer than 
those supplied by Kate's intelligence, or, in a richer degree, 
by Densher's, or, for one fond hour, by poor Mrs. String- 
ham's (since to that sole brief futility is this last participant, 
crowned by my original plan with the quaintest functions, 
in fact reduced) ; just as Kate's relation with Densher and 
Densher's with Kate have ceased previously, and are then 
to cease again, to be projected for us, so far as Milly is con 
cerned with them, on any more responsible plate than that 
of the latter's admirable anxiety. It is as if, for these aspects, 
the impersonal plate in other words the poor author's com-- 
- 1 xvii 



PREFACE 

paratively cold affirmation or thin guarantee had felt it 
self a figure of attestation at once too gross and too blood 
less, likely to affect us as an abuse of privilege when not as 
an abuse of knowledge. 

Heaven forbid, we say to ourselves during almost the 
whole Venetian climax, heaven forbid we should " know " 
anything more of our ravaged sister than what Densher 
darkly pieces together, or than what Kate Croy pays, heroic 
ally, it must be owned, at the hour of her visit alone to 
Densher's lodging, for her superior handling and her dire 
profanation of. For we have time, while this passage lasts, 
to turn round critically ; we have time to recognise inten 
tions and proprieties j we have time to catch glimpses of 
an economy of composition, as I put it, interesting in it 
self: all in spite of the author's scarce more than half- 
dissimulated despair at the inveterate displacement of his 
general centre. " The Wings of the Dove" happens to offer 
perhaps the most striking example I may cite (though with 
public penance for it already performed) of my regular fail 
ure to keep the appointed halves of my whole equal. Here 
the makeshift middle for which the best I can say is that 
it 's always rueful and never impudent reigns with even 
more than its customary contrition, though passing itself 
off perhaps too with more than its usual craft. Nowhere, I 
seem to recall, had the need of dissimulation been felt so as 
anguish ; nowhere had I condemned a luckless theme to 
complete its revolution, burdened with the accumulation 
of its difficulties, the difficulties that grow with a theme's 
development, in quarters so cramped. Of course, as every 
novelist knows, it is difficulty that inspires ; only, for that 
perfection of charm, it must have been difficulty inherent 
and congenital, and not difficulty " caught " by the wrong 
frequentations. The latter half, that is the false and de 
formed half, of " The Wings " would verily, I think, form 
a signal object-lesson for a literary critic bent on improv 
ing his occasion to the profit of the budding artist. This 
whole corner of the picture bristles with " dodges " such 
as he should feel himself all committed to recognise and 
xviii 



PREFACE 

denounce for disguising the reduced scale of the exhibi 
tion, for foreshortening at any cost, for imparting to patches 
the value of presences, for dressing objects in an air as of 
the dimensions they can't possibly have. Thus he would have 
his free hand for pointing out what a tangled web we weave 
when well, when, through our mislaying or otherwise 
trifling with our blest pair of compasses, we have to pro 
duce the illusion of mass without the illusion of extent. 
There is a job quite to the measure of most of our moni 
tors and with the interest for them well enhanced by the 
preliminary cunning quest for the spot where deformity has 
begun. 

I recognise meanwhile, throughout the long earlier reach 
of the book, not only no deformities but, I think, a posi 
tively close and felicitous application of method, the pre 
served consistencies of which, often illusive, but never really 
lapsing, it would be of a certain diversion, and might be of 
some profit, to follow. The author's accepted task at the 
outset has been to suggest with force the nature of the tie 
formed between the two young persons first introduced 
to give the full impression of its peculiar worried and baffled, 
yet clinging and confident, ardour. The picture constituted, 
so far as may be, is that of a pair of natures well-nigh con 
sumed by a sense of their intimate affinity and congruity, 
the reciprocity of their desire, and thus passionately impa 
tient of barriers and delays, yet with qualities of intelligence 
and character that they are meanwhile extraordinarily able 
to draw upon for the enrichment of their relation, the ex 
tension of their prospect and the support of their " game." 
They are far from a common couple, Merton Densher 
and Kate Croy, as befits the remarkable fashion in which 
fortune was to waylay and opportunity was to distinguish 
them the whole strange truth of their response to which 
opening involves also, in its order, no vulgar art of exhibi 
tion ; but what they have most to tell us is that, all uncon 
sciously and with the best faith in the world, all by mere 
force of the terms of their superior passion combined with 
their superior diplomacy, they are laying a trap for the great 

xix 



PREFACE 

innocence to come. If I like, as I have confessed, the " por 
tentous " look, I was perhaps never to set so high a value 
on it as for all this prompt provision of forces unwittingly 
waiting to close round my eager heroine (to the eventual 
deep chill of her eagerness) as the result of her mere lifting 
of a latch. Infinitely interesting to have built up the rela 
tion of the others to the point at which its aching restless 
ness, its need to affirm itself otherwise than by an exasper 
ated patience, meets as with instinctive relief and recognition 
the possibilities shining out of Milly Theale. Infinitely in 
teresting to have prepared and organised, correspondingly, 
that young woman's precipitations and liabilities, to have 
constructed, for Drama essentially to take possession, the 
whole bright house of her exposure. 

These references, however, reflect too little of the detail 
of the treatment imposed ; such a detail as I for instance 
get hold of in the fact of Densher's interview with Mrs. 
Lowder before he goes to America. It forms, in this pre 
liminary picture, the one patch not strictly seen over Kate 
Croy's shoulder ; though it 's notable that immediately after, 
at the first possible moment, we surrender again to our 
major convenience, as it happens to be at the time, that of 
our drawing breath through the young woman's lungs. Once 
more, in other words, before we know it, Densher's direct 
vision of the scene at Lancaster Gate is replaced by her ap 
prehension, her contributive assimilation, of his experience : 
it melts back into that accumulation, which we have been, 
as it were, saving up. Does my apparent deviation here 
count accordingly as a muddle ? one of the muddles ever 
blooming so thick in any soil that fails to grow reasons and 
determinants. No, distinctly not ; for I had definitely 
opened the door, as attention of perusal of the first two 
Books will show, to the subjective community of my young 
pair. (Attention of perusal, I thus confess by the way, is 
what I at every point, as well as here, absolutely invoke 
and take for granted ; a truth I avail myself of this occasion 
to note once for all in the interest of that variety of ideal 
reigning, I gather, in the connexion. The enjoyment of a 

xx 



PREFACE 

work of art, the acceptance of an irresistible illusion, con 
stituting, to my sense, our highest experience of " luxury," 
the luxury is not greatest, by my consequent measure, when 
the work asks for as little attention as possible. It is great 
est, it is delightfully, divinely great, when we feel the sur 
face, like the thick ice of the skater's pond, bear without 
cracking the strongest pressure we throw on it. The sound 
of the crack one may recognise, but never surely to call it 
a luxury.) That I had scarce availed myself of the privilege 
of seeing with Densher's eyes is another matter ; the point 
is that I had intelligently marked my possible, my occa 
sional need of it. So, at all events, the constructional 
" block " of the first two Books compactly forms itself. A 
new block, all of the squarest and not a little of the smooth 
est, begins with the Third by which I mean of course a 
new mass of interest governed from a new centre. Here 
again I make prudent provision to be sure to keep my cen 
tre strong. It dwells mainly, we at once see, in the depths 
of Milly Theale's " case," where, close beside it, however, 
we meet a supplementary reflector, that of the lucid even 
though so quivering spirit of her dedicated friend. 

The more or less associated consciousness of the two 
women deals thus, unequally, with the next presented face 
of the subject deals with it to the exclusion of the deal 
ing of others ; and if, for a highly particular moment, I allot 
to Mrs. Stringham the responsibility of the direct appeal to 
us, it is again, charming to relate, on behalf of that play of 
the portentous which I cherish so as a " value " and am 
accordingly for ever setting in motion. There is an hour of 
evening, on the alpine height, at which it becomes of the 
last importance that our young woman should testify emin 
ently in this direction. But as I was to find it long since 
of a blest wisdom that no expense should be incurred or 
met, in any corner of picture of mine, without some con 
crete image of the account kept of it, that is of its being 
organically re-economised, so under that dispensation Mrs. 
Stringham has to register the transaction. Book Fifth is a 
new block mainly in its provision of a new set of occasions, 

xxi 



PREFACE 



which readopt, for their order, the previous centre, Milly's 
now almost full-blown consciousness. At my game, with re 
newed zest, of driving portents home, I have by this time all 
the choice of those that are to brush that surface with a dark 
wing. They are used, to our profit, on an elastic but a definite 
system ; by which I mean that having to sound here and 
there a little deep, as a test, for my basis of method, I find 
it everywhere obstinately present. It draws the "occasion" 
into tune and keeps it so, to repeat my tiresome term ; my 
nearest approach to muddlement is to have sometimes but 
not too often to break my occasions small. Some of them 
succeed in remaining ample and in really aspiring then to 
the higher, the sustained lucidity. The whole actual centre 
of the work, resting on a misplaced pivot and lodged in 
Book Fifth, pretends to a long reach, or at any rate to the 
larger foreshortening though bringing home to me, on re- 
perusal, what I find striking, charming and curious, the au 
thor's instinct everywhere for the indirect presentation of his 
main image. I note how, again and again, I go but a little 
way with the direct that is with the straight exhibition 
of Milly ; it resorts for relief, this process, whenever it can, 
to some kinder, some merciful indirection : all as if to ap 
proach her circuitously, deal with her at second hand, as an 
unspotted princess is ever dealt with ; the pressure all round 
her kept easy for her, the sounds, the movements regulated, 
the forms and ambiguities made charming. All of which 
proceeds, obviously, from her painter's tenderness of imag 
ination about her, which reduces him to watching her, as it 
were, through the successive windows of other people's in 
terest in her. So, if we talk of princesses, do the balconies 
opposite the palace gates, do the coigns of vantage and re 
spect enjoyed for a fee, rake from afar the mystic figure in 
the gilded coach as it comes forth into the great place. But 
my use of windows and balconies is doubtless at best an ex 
travagance by itself, and as to what there may be to note, 
of this and other supersubtleties, other arch-refinements, of 
tact and taste, of design and instinct, in " The Wings of 
the Dove," I become conscious of overstepping my space 

xxii 



PREFACE 

without having brought the full quantity to light. The fail 
ure leaves me with a burden of residuary comment of which 
I yet boldly hope elsewhere to discharge myself. 

HENRY JAMES. 




BOOK FIRST 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 



SHE waited, Kate Croy, for her father to come in, 
but he kept her unconscionably, and there were mo 
ments at which she showed herself, in the glass over 
the mantel, a face positively pale with the irritation 
that had brought her to the point of going away with 
out sight of him. It was at this point, however, that 
she remained; changing her place, moving from the 
shabby sofa to the armchair upholstered in a glazed 
cloth that gave at once she had tried it the sense 
of the slippery and of the sticky. She had looked at 
the sallow prints on the walls and at the lonely mag 
azine, a year old, that combined, with a small lamp in 
coloured glass and a knitted white centre-piece want 
ing in freshness, to enhance the effect of the purplish 
cloth on the principal table; she had above all from 
time to time taken a brief stand on the small balcony 
to which the pair of long windows gave access. The 
vulgar little street, in this view, offered scant relief 
from the vulgar little room; its main office was to 
suggest to her that the narrow black house-fronts, 
adjusted to a standard that would have been low 
even for backs, constituted quite the publicity im 
plied by such privacies. One felt them in the room 
exactly as one felt the room the hundred like it 
or worse in the street. Each time she turned in 
again, each time, in her impatience, she gave him up, 

3 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

it was to sound to a deeper depth, while she tasted 
the faint flat emanation of things, the failure of fortune 
and of honour. If she continued to wait it was really 
in a manner that she might n't add the shame of fear, 
of individual, of personal collapse, to all the other 
shames. To feel the street, to feel the room, to feel 
the table-cloth and the centre-piece and the lamp, 
gave her a small salutary sense at least of neither 
shirking nor lying. This whole vision was the worst 
thing yet as including in particular the interview 
to which she had braced herself; and for what had 
she come but for the worst ? She tried to be sad so as 
not to be angry, but it made her angry that she could 
n't be sad. And yet where was misery, misery too 
beaten for blame and chalk-marked by fate like a 
"lot" at a common auction, if not in these merciless 
signs of mere mean stale feelings ? 

Her father's life, her sister's, her own, that of her 
two lost brothers the whole history of their house 
had the effect of some fine florid voluminous phrase, 
say even a musical, that dropped first into words and 
notes without sense and then, hanging unfinished, into 
no words nor any notes at all. Why should a set of 
people have been put in motion, on such a scale and 
with such an air of being equipped for a profitable 
journey, only to break down without an accident, to 
stretch themselves in the wayside dust without a 
reason ? The answer to these questions was not in 
Chirk Street, but the questions themselves bristled 
there, and the girl's repeated pause before the mirror 
and the chimney-place might have represented her 
nearest approach to an escape from them. Was n't it 

4 



BOOK FIRST 

in fact the partial escape from this "worst" in which 
she was steeped to be able to make herself out again 
as agreeable to see ? She stared into the tarnished 
glass too hard indeed to be staring at her beauty alone. 
She readjusted the poise of her black closely-feathered 
hat; retouched, beneath it, the thick fall of her dusky 
hair; kept her eyes aslant no less on her beautiful 
averted than on her beautiful presented oval. She 
was dressed altogether in black, which gave an even 
tone, by contrast, to her clear face and made her hair 
more harmoniously dark. Outside, on the balcony, 
her eyes showed as blue; within, at the mirror, they 
showed almost as black. She was handsome, but the 
degree of it was not sustained by items and aids ; a 
circumstance moreover playing its part at almost any 
time in the impression she produced. The impression 
was one that remained, but as regards the sources of 
it no sum in addition would have made up the total. 
She had stature without height, grace without motion, 
presence without mass. Slender and simple, fre 
quently soundless, she was somehow always in the 
line of the eye she counted singularly for its pleas 
ure. More "dressed," often, with fewer accessories, 
than other women, or less dressed, should occasion re 
quire, with more, she probably could n't have given 
the key to these felicities. They were mysteries of 
which her friends were conscious those friends 
whose general explanation was to say that she was 
clever, whether or no it were taken by the world as 
the cause or as the effect of her charm. If she saw 
more things than her fine face in the dull glass of her 
father's lodgings she might have seen that after all 

5 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

she was not herself a fact in the collapse. She did n't 
hold herself cheap, she did n't make for misery. Per 
sonally, no, she was n't chalk-marked for auction. 
She had n't given up yet, and the broken sentence, if 
she was the last word, would end with a sort of mean 
ing. There was a minute during which, though her 
eyes were fixed, she quite visibly lost herself in the 
thought of the way she might still pull things round 
had she only been a man. It was the name, above all, 
she would take in hand the precious name she so 
liked and that, in spite of the harm her wretched 
father had done it, was n't yet past praying for. She 
loved it in fact the more tenderly for that bleeding 
wound. But what could a penniless girl do with it 
but let it go ? 

When her father at last appeared she became, as 
usual, instantly aware of the futility of any effort 
to hold him to anything. He had written her he was 
ill, too ill to leave his room, and that he must see her 
without delay; and if this had been, as was probable, 
the sketch of a design he was indifferent even to the 
moderate finish required for deception. He had 
clearly wanted, for the perversities he called his rea 
sons, to see her, just as she herself had sharpened for 
a talk ; but she now again felt, in the inevitability of 
the freedom he used with her, all the old ache, her 
poor mother's very own, that he could n't touch you 
ever so lightly without setting up. No relation with 
him could be so short or so superficial as not to be 
somehow to your hurt ; and this, in the strangest way 
in the world, not because he desired it to be feeling 
often, as he surely must, the profit for him of its not 

6 



BOOK FIRST 

being but because there was never a mistake for 
you that he could leave unmade, nor a conviction of 
his impossibility in you that he could approach you 
without strengthening. He might have awaited her on 
the sofa in his sitting-room, or might have stayed in 
bed and received her in that situation. She was glad 
to be spared the sight of such penetralia, but it would 
have reminded her a little less that there was no truth 
in him. This was the weariness of every fresh meet 
ing; he dealt out lies as he might the cards from the 
greasy old pack for the game of diplomacy to which 
you were to sit down with him. The inconvenience 
as always happens in such cases was not that you 
minded what was false, but that you missed what was 
true. He might be ill and it might suit you to know 
it, but no contact with him, for this, could ever be 
straight enough. Just so he even might die, but Kate 
fairly wondered on what evidence of his own she would 
some day have to believe it. 

He had not at present come down from his room, 
which she knew to be above the one they were in: 
he had already been out of the house, though he 
would either, should she challenge him, deny it or 
present it as a proof of his extremity. She had, how 
ever, by this time, quite ceased to challenge him ; not 
only, face to face with him, vain irritation dropped, 
but he breathed upon the tragic consciousness in such 
a way that after a moment nothing of it was left. The 
difficulty was not less that he breathed in the same 
way upon the comic: she almost believed that with 
this latter she might still have found a foothold for 
clinging to him. He had ceased to be amusing he 

7 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

was really too inhuman. His perfect look, which had 
floated him so long, was practically perfect still; but 
one had long since for every occasion taken it for 
granted. Nothing could have better shown than the 
actual how right one had been. He looked exactly as 
much as usual all pink and silver as to skin and 
hair, all straightness and starch as to figure and dress ; 
the man in the world least connected with anything 
unpleasant. He was so particularly the English 
gentleman and the fortunate settled normal person. 
Seen at a foreign table d'hote he suggested but one 
thing : " In what perfection England produces them ! " 
He had kind safe eyes, and a voice which, for all its 
clean fulness, told the quiet tale of its having never 
had once to raise itself. Life had met him so, half 
way, 'and had turned round so to walk with him, plac 
ing a hand in his arm and fondly leaving him to choose 
the pace. Those who knew him a little said "How 
he does dress ! " those who knew him better said 
"How does he?" The one stray gleam of comedy 
just now in his daughter's eyes was the absurd feel 
ing he momentarily made her have of being herself 
"looked up" by him in sordid lodgings. For a min 
ute after he came in it was as if the place were her 
own and he the visitor with susceptibilities. He gave 
you absurd feelings, he had indescribable arts, that 
quite turned the tables : this had been always how he 
came to see her mother so long as her mother would 
see him. He came from places they had often not 
known about, but he patronised Lexham Gardens. 
Kate's only actual expression of impatience, however, 
was "I'm glad you're so much better!" 

8 



BOOK FIRST 

" I 'm not so much better, my dear I *m exceed 
ingly unwell; the proof of which is precisely that I 've 
been out to the chemist's that beastly fellow at the 
corner." So Mr. Croy showed he could qualify the 
humble hand that assuaged him. "I 'm taking some 
thing he has made up for me. It 's just why I 've sent 
for you that you may see me as I really am." 

"Oh papa, it's long since I've ceased to see you 
otherwise than as you really are! I think we've all 
arrived by this time at the right word for that : * You 're 
beautiful nen parlons plus* You 're as beautiful 
as ever you look lovely." He judged meanwhile 
her own appearance, as she knew she could always 
trust him to do; recognising, estimating, sometimes 
disapproving, what she wore, showing her the interest 
he continued to take in her. He might really take none 
at all, yet she virtually knew herself the creature in the 
world to whom he was least indifferent. She had often 
enough wondered what on earth, at the pass he had 
reached, could give him pleasure, and had come back 
on these occasions to that. It gave him pleasure that 
she was handsome, that she was in her way a tangible 
value. It was at least as marked, nevertheless, that 
he derived none from similar conditions, so far as 
they were similar, in his other child. Poor Marian 
might be handsome, but he certainly did n't care. 
The hitch here of course was that, with whatever 
beauty, her sister, widowed and almost in want, with 
four bouncing children, had no such measure. She 
asked him the next thing how long he had been in his 
actual quarters, though aware of how little it mat 
tered, how little any answer he might make would 

9 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

probably have in common with the truth. She failed 
in fact to notice his answer, truthful or not, already 
occupied as she was with what she had on her own 
side to say to him. This was really what had made 
her wait what superseded the small remainder of 
her resentment at his constant practical impertinence ; 
the result of all of which was that within a minute she 
had brought it out. "Yes even now I 'm willing to 
go with you. I don't know what you may have wished 
to say to me, and even if you had n't written you 
would within a day or two have heard from me. 
Things have happened, and I've only waited, for 
seeing you, till I should be quite sure. I am quite 
sure. I '11 go with you." 

It produced an effect. "Go with me where ?" 
"Anywhere. I'll stay with you. Even here." She 
had taken off her gloves and, as if she had arrived 
with her plan, she sat down. 

Lionel Croy hung about in his disengaged way 
hovered there as if looking, in consequence of her 
words, for a pretext to back out easily : on which she 
immediately saw she had discounted, as it might be 
called, what he had himself been preparing. He 
wished her not to come to him, still less to settle with 
him, and had sent for her to give her up with some 
style and state ; a part of the beauty of which, how 
ever, was to have been his sacrifice to her own detach 
ment. There was no style, no state, unless she wished 
to forsake him. His idea had accordingly been to sur 
render her to her wish with all nobleness ; it had by 
no means been to have positively to keep her off. She 
cared, however, not a straw for his embarrassment 

10 



BOOK FIRST 

feeling how little, on her own part, she was moved by 
charity. She had seen him, first and last, in so many 
attitudes that she could now deprive him quite with 
out compunction of the luxury of a new one. Yet she 
felt the disconcerted gasp in his tone as he said : "Oh 
my child, I can never consent to that ! " 

"What then are you going to do ?" 

"I'm turning it over," said Lionel Croy. "You 
may imagine if I 'm not thinking." 

"Have n't you thought then," his daughter asked, 
"of what I speak of? I mean of my being ready." 

Standing before her with his hands behind him 
and his legs a little apart, he swayed slightly to and 
fro, inclined toward her as if rising on his toes. It 
had an effect of conscientious deliberation. "No 
I have n't. I could n't. I would n't." It was so re 
spectable a show that she felt afresh, and with the 
memory of their old despair, the despair at home, 
how little his appearance ever by any chance told 
about him. His plausibility had been the heaviest 
of her mother's crosses; inevitably so much more 
present to the world than whatever it was that was 
horrid thank God they did n't really know ! 
that he had done. He had positively been, in his way, 
by the force of his particular type, a terrible husband 
not to live with; his type reflecting so invidiously on 
the woman who had found him distasteful. Had 
this thereby not kept directly present to Kate herself 
that it might, on some sides, prove no light thing for 
her to leave uncompanion'd a parent with such a face 
and such a manner ? Yet if there was much she 
neither knew nor dreamed of it passed between them 

II 



I 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

at this very moment that he was quite familiar with 
himself as the subject of such quandaries. If he 
recognised his younger daughter's happy aspect as 
a tangible value, he had from the first still more ex 
actly appraised every point of his own. The great 
wonder was not that in spite of everything these 
points had helped him; the great wonder was that 
they had n't helped him more. However, it was, to 
its eternal recurrent tune, helping him all the while; 
her drop into patience with him showed how it was 
helping him at this moment. She saw the next instant 
precisely the line he would take. " Do you really ask 
me to believe you've been making up your mind to 
that?" 

She had to consider her own line. "I don't think 
I care, papa, what you believe. I never, for that 
matter, think of you as believing anything; hardly 
more," she permitted herself to add, "than I ever 
think of you as yourself believed. I don't know you, 
father, you see." 

"And it's your idea that you may make that up ?" 

"Oh dear, no; not at all. That's no part of the 
question. If I haven't understood you by this time 
I never shall, and it does n't matter. It has seemed 
to me you may be lived with, but not that you may be 
understood. Of course I 've not the least idea how 
you get on." 

"I don't get on," Mr. Croy almost gaily replied. 

His daughter took the place in again, and it might 
well have seemed odd that with so little to meet the 
eye there should be so much to show. What showed 
was the ugliness so positive and palpable that it 

12 



BOOK FIRST 

was somehow sustaining. It was a medium, a setting, 
and to that extent, after all, a dreadful sign of life; 
so that it fairly gave point to her answer. "Oh I beg 
your pardon. You flourish." 

"Do you throw it up at me again," he pleasantly 
put to her, "that I Ve not made away with myself?" 

She treated the question as needing no reply; she 
sat there for real things. "You know how all our 
anxieties, under mamma's will, have come out. She 
had still less to leave than she feared. We don't know 
how we lived. It all makes up about two hundred a 
year for Marian, and two for me, but I give up a hun 
dred to Marian." 

"Oh you weak thing!" her father sighed as from 
depths of enlightened experience. 

"For you and me together," she went on, "the 
other hundred would do something." 

"And what would do the rest?" 

" Can you yourself do nothing ? " 

He gave her a look; then, slipping his hands into 
his pockets and turning away, stood for a little at 
the window she had left open. She said nothing more 
she had placed him there with that question, and 
the silence lasted a minute, broken by the call of an 
appealing costermonger, which came in with the 
mild March air, with the shabby sunshine, fearfully 
unbecoming to the room, and with the small homely 
hum of Chirk Street. Presently he moved nearer, but 
as if her question had quite dropped. "I don't see 
what has so suddenly wound you up." 

"I should have thought you might perhaps guess. 
Let me at any rate tell you. Aunt Maud has made 

13 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

me a proposal. But she has also made me a condition. 
She wants to keep me." 

"And what in the world else could she possibly 
want ? " 

"Oh I don't know many things. I'm not so 
precious a capture," the girl a little dryly explained. 
"No one has ever wanted to keep me before." 

Looking always what was proper, her father looked 
now still more surprised than interested. "You've 
not had proposals ? " He spoke as if that were incred 
ible of Lionel Croy's daughter; as if indeed such an 
admission scarce consorted, even in filial intimacy, 
with her high spirit and general form. 

"Not from rich relations. She's extremely kind 
to me, but it 's time, she says, that we should under 
stand each other." 

Mr. Croy fully assented. "Of course it is high 
time; and I can quite imagine what she means by it." 

"Are you very sure ?" 

"Oh perfectly. She means that she'll 'do' for you 
handsomely if you '11 break off all relations with me. 
You speak of her condition. Her condition 's of course 
that." 

"Well then," said Kate, "it's what has wound me 
up. Here I am." 

He showed with a gesture how thoroughly he had 
taken it in ; after which, within a few seconds, he had 
quite congruously turned the situation about. "Do 
you really suppose me in a position to justify your 
throwing yourself upon me ? " 

She waited a little, but when she spoke it was clear. 
"Yes." 



BOOK FIRST 

"Well then, you're of feebler intelligence than I 
should have ventured to suppose you." 

"Why so? You live. You flourish. You bloom." 

"Ah how you've all always hated me!" he mur 
mured with a pensive gaze again at the window. 

"No one could be less of a mere cherished mem 
ory," she declared as if she had not heard him. 
"You're an actual person, if there ever was one. We 
agreed just now that you're beautiful. You strike 
me, you know, as in your own way much more 
firm on your feet than I. Don't put it to me therefore 
as monstrous that the fact that we 're after all parent 
and child should at present in some manner count 
for us. My idea has been that it should have some 
effect for each of us. I don't at all, as I told you just 
now," she pursued, "make out your life; but what 
ever it is I hereby offer to accept it. And, on my side, 
I '11 do everything I can for you." 

"I see," said Lionel Croy. Then with the sound 
of extreme relevance: "And what can you?" She 
only, at this, hesitated, and he took up her silence. 
"You can describe yourself to yourself as, in a 
fine flight, giving up your aunt for me; but what 
good, I should like to know, would your fine flight 
do me ? " As she still said nothing he developed a 
little. "We're not possessed of so much, at this 
charming pass, please to remember, as that we can 
afford not to take hold of any perch held out to us. 
I like the way you talk, my dear, about * giving up' ! 
One does n't give up the use of a spoon because one 's 
reduced to living on broth. And your spoon, that is 
your aunt, please consider, is partly mine as well." 

15 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

She rose now, as if in sight of the term of her effort, 
in sight of the futility and the weariness of many 
things, and moved back to the poor little glass with 
which she had communed before. She retouched here 
again the poise of her hat, and this brought to her 
father's lips another remark in which impatience, 
however, had already been replaced by a free flare 
of appreciation. " Oh you 're all right ! Don't muddle 
yourself up with me!" 

His daughter turned round to him. "The con 
dition Aunt Maud makes is that I shall have ab 
solutely nothing to do with you ; never see you, nor 
speak nor write to you, never go near you nor make 
you a sign, nor hold any sort of communication with 
you. What she requires is that you shall simply cease 
to exist for me." 

He had always seemed it was one of the marks 
of what they called the "unspeakable" in him to 
walk a little more on his toes, as if for jauntiness, 
under the touch of offence. Nothing, however, was 
more wonderful than what he sometimes would take 
for offence, unless it might be what he sometimes 
would n't. He walked at any rate on his toes now. 
"A very proper requirement of your Aunt Maud, my 
dear I don't hesitate to say it ! " Yet as this, much 
as she had seen, left her silent at first from what might 
have been a sense of sickness, he had time to go on : 
"That's her condition then. But what are her pro 
mises ? Just what does she engage to do ? You must 
work it, you know." 

"You mean make her feel," Kate asked after a 
moment, " how much I 'm attached to you ? " 

16 



BOOK FIRST 

"Well, what a cruel invidious treaty it is for you 
to sign. I 'm a poor ruin of an old dad to make a 
stand about giving up I quite agree. But I 'm not, 
after all, quite the old ruin not to get something for 
giving up." 

"Oh I think her idea," said Kate almost gaily 
now, "is that I shall get a great deal." 

He met her with his inimitable amenity. " But does 
she give you the items ? " 

The girl went through the show. "More or less, 
I think. But many of them are things I dare say I 
may take for granted things women can do for each 
other and that you would n't understand." 

"There's nqthing I understand so well, always, as 
the things I need n't ! But what I want to do, you 
see," he went on, " is to put it to your conscience that 
you 've an admirable opportunity; and that it's more 
over one for which, after all, damn you, you 've really 
to thank me" 

"I confess I don't see," Kate observed, "what my 
' conscience ' has to do with it." 

"Then, my dear girl, you ought simply to be 
ashamed of yourself. Do you know what you 're a 
proof of, all you hard hollow people together ? " He 
put the question with a charming air of sudden 
spiritual heat. "Of the deplorably superficial moral 
ity of the age. The family sentiment, in our vulgarised 
brutalised life, has gone utterly to pot. There was a 
day when a man like me by which I mean a parent 
like me would have been for a daughter like you 
quite a distinct value; what's called in the business 
world, I believe, an 'asset.'" He continued sociably 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

to make it out. " I 'm not talking only of what you 
might, with the right feeling, do for me, but of what 
you might it 's what I call your opportunity do 
with me. Unless indeed," he the next moment im- 
perturbably threw off, "they come a good deal to 
the same thing. Your duty as well as your chance, 
if you 're capable of seeing it, is to use me. Show 
family feeling by seeing what I 'm good for. If you 
had it as / have it you 'd see I 'm still good well, 
for a lot of things. There 's in fact, my dear," Mr. 
Croy wound up, "a coach-and-four to be got out of 
me." His lapse, or rather his climax, failed a little 
of effect indeed through an undue precipitation of 
memory. Something his daughter had said came back 
to him. "You've settled to give away half your little 
inheritance ? " 

Her hesitation broke into laughter. "No I have 
n't 'settled' anything." 

"But you mean practically to let Marian collar 
it ? " They stood there face to face, but she so denied 
herself to his challenge that he could only go on. 
"You've a view of three hundred a year for her in 
addition to what her husband left her with ? Is that," 
the remote progenitor of such wantonness audibly 
wondered, "your morality?" 

Kate found her answer without trouble. "Is it 
your idea that I should give you everything ? " 

The "everything" clearly struck him to the 
point even of determining the tone of his reply. "Far 
from it. How can you ask that when I refuse what you 
tell me you came to offer ? Make of my idea what you 
can ; I think I 've sufficiently expressed it, and it 's at 

18 



BOOK FIRST 

any rate to take or to leave. It 's the only one, I may 
nevertheless add; it's the basket with all my eggs. 
It 's my conception, in short, of your duty." 

The girl's tired smile watched the word as if it had 
taken on a small grotesque visibility. "You're won 
derful on such subjects! I think I should leave you 
in no doubt," she pursued, "that if I were to sign my 
aunt's agreement I should carry it out, in honour, to 
the letter." 

"Rather, my own love! It's just your honour that 
I appeal to. The only way to play the game is to 
play it. There's no limit to what your aunt can do 
for you." 

" Do you mean in the way of marrying me ? " 

"What else should I mean? Marry properly " 

"And then ?" Kate asked as he hung fire. 

"And then well, I will talk with you. I'll re 
sume relations." 

She looked about her and picked up her parasol. 
" Because you 're not so afraid of any one else in the 
world as you are of her ? My husband, if I should 
marry, would be at the worst less of a terror ? If that 's 
what you mean there may be something in it. But 
does n't it depend a little also on what you mean by 
my getting a proper one ? However," Kate added 
as she picked out the frill of her little umbrella, "I 
don't suppose your idea of him is quite that he should 
persuade you to live with us." 

" Dear no not a bit." He spoke as not resenting 
either the fear or the hope she imputed; met both 
imputations in fact with a sort of intellectual relief. 
"I place the case for you wholly in your aunt's hands. 

19 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

I take her view with my eyes shut; I accept in all 
confidence any man she selects. If he 's good enough 
for her elephantine snob as she is he 's good 
enough for me; and quite in spite of the fact that 
she '11 be sure to select one who can be trusted to be 
nasty to me. My only interest is in your doing what 
she wants. You shan't be so beastly poor, my darling," 
Mr. Croy declared, "if I can help it." 

"Well then good-bye, papa," the girl said after 
a reflexion on this that had perceptibly ended for her 
in a renunciation of further debate. "Of course you 
understand that it may be for long." 

Her companion had hereupon one of his finest in 
spirations. "Why not frankly for ever? You must 
do me the justice to see that I don't do things, that 
I 've never done them, by halves that if I offer you 
to efface myself it 's for the final fatal sponge I ask, 
well saturated and well applied." 

She turned her handsome quiet face upon him at 
such length that it might indeed have been for the 
last time. "I don't know what you're like." 

"No more do I, my dear. I've spent my life in 
trying in vain to discover. Like nothing more 's 
the pity. If there had been many of us and we could 
have found each other out there 's no knowing what 
we might n't have done. But it does n't matter 
now. Good-bye, love." He looked even not sure of 
what she would wish him to suppose on the sub 
ject of a kiss, yet also not embarrassed by his un 
certainty. 

She forbore in fact for a moment longer to clear 
it up. " I wish there were some one here who might 

20 



BOOK FIRST 

serve for any contingency as a witness that I 
have put it to you that I 'm ready to come." 

"Would you like me," her father asked, " to call 
the landlady?" 

"You may not believe me," she pursued, "but I 
came really hoping you might have found some way. 
I'm very sorry at all events to leave you unwell." 
He turned away from her on this and, as he had done 
before, took refuge, by the window, in a stare at the 
street. " Let me put it unfortunately without a 
witness," she added after a moment, "that there's 
only one word you really need speak." 

When he took these words up it was still with his 
back to her. " If I don't strike you as having already 
spoken it our time has been singularly wasted." 

"I'll engage with you in respect to my aunt ex 
actly to what she wants of me in respect to you. She 
wants me to choose. Very well, I will choose. I '11 
wash my hands of her for you to just that tune." 

He at last brought himself round. "Do you know, 
dear, you make me sick ? I 've tried to be clear, and 
it is n't fair." 

But she passed this over; she was too visibly sin 
cere. "Father!" 

" I don't quite see what 5 s the matter with you," he 
said, "and if you can't pull yourself together I'll 
upon my honour take you in hand. Put you 
into a cab and deliver you again safe at Lancaster 
Gate." 

She was really absent, distant. "Father." 

It was too much, and he met it sharply. "Well ?" 

"Strange as it may be to you to hear me say it, 

21 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

there's a good you can do me and a help you can 
render." 

" Is n't it then exactly what I 've been trying to 
make you feel ? " 

"Yes," she answered patiently, "but so in the 
wrong way. I 'm perfectly honest in what I say, and 
I know what I 'm talking about. It is n't that I '11 
pretend I could have believed a month ago in any 
thing to call aid or support from you. The case is 
changed that's what has happened; my difficulty is 
a new one. But even now it 's not a question of any 
thing I should ask you in a way to 'do.' It's simply 
a question of your not turning me away taking 
yourself out of my life. It 's simply a question of your 
saying : ' Yes then, since you will, we '11 stand together. 
We won't worry in advance about how or where ; we '11 
have a faith and find a way/ That's all that 
would be the good you 'd do me. I should have you, 
and it would be for my benefit. Do you see ? " 

If he did n't it was n't for want of looking at her 
hard. "The matter with you is that you're in love, 
and that your aunt knows and for reasons, I 'm 
sure, perfect hates and opposes it. Well she may ! 
It 's a matter in which I trust her with my eyes shut. 
Go, please." Though he spoke not in anger rather 
in infinite sadness he fairly turned her out. Before 
she took it up he had, as the fullest expression of what 
he felt, opened the door of the room. He had fairly, 
in his deep disapproval, a generous compassion to 
spare. "I'm sorry for her, deluded woman, if she 
builds on you." 

Kate stood a moment in the draught. "She's not 
22 



BOOK FIRST 

the person / pity most, for, deluded in many ways 
though she may be, she 's not the person who 's most 
so. I mean," she explained, "if it's a question of 
what you call building on me." 

He took it as if what she meant might be other than 
her description of it. "You're deceiving two persons 
then, Mrs. Lowder and somebody else?" 

She shook her head with detachment. "I've no 
intention of that sort with respect to any one now 
to Mrs. Lowder least of all. If you fail me" she 
seemed to make it out for herself "that has the 
merit at least that it simplifies. I shall go my way 
as I see my way." 

" Your way, you mean then, will be to marry some 
blackguard without a penny ? " 

"You demand a great deal of satisfaction," she ob 
served, "for the little you give." 

It brought him up again before her as with a sense 
that she was not to be hustled, and though he glared 
at her a little this had long been the practical limit 
to his general power of objection. "If you're base 
enough to incur your aunt's reprobation you 're base 
enough for my argument. What, if you 're not think 
ing of an utterly improper person, do your speeches 
to me signify ? Who is the beggarly sneak ? " he went 
on as her response failed. 

Her response, when it came, was cold but distinct. 
" He has every disposition to make the best of you. He 
only wants in fact to be kind to you." 

"Then he must be an ass! And how in the world 
can you consider it to improve him for me," her 
father pursued, "that he's also destitute and impos- 

23 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

sible ? There are boobies and boobies even the 
right and the wrong and you appear to have care 
fully picked out one of the wrong. Your aunt knows 
them, by good fortune ; I perfectly trust, as I tell you, 
her judgement for them ; and you may take it from 
me once for all that I won't hear of any one of whom 
she won't." Which led up to his last word. "If you 
should really defy us both ! " 

"Well, papa?" 

"Well, my sweet child, I think that reduced to 
insignificance as you may fondly believe me I 
should still not be quite without some way of making 
you regret it." 

She had a pause, a grave one, but not, as appeared, 
that she might measure this danger. " If I should n't 
do it, you know, it would n't be because I 'm afraid 
of you." 

"Oh if you don't do it," he retorted, "you may be 
as bold as you like!" 

" Then you can do nothing at all for me ? " 

He showed her, this time unmistakeably it was 
before her there on the landing, at the top of the 
tortuous stairs and in the midst of the strange smell 
that seemed to cling to them how vain her ap 
peal remained. "I've never pretended to do more 
than my duty; I've given you the best and the clear 
est advice." And then came up the spring that 
moved him. "If it only displeases you, you can go 
to Marian to be consoled." What he could n't for 
give was her dividing with Marian her scant share of 
the provision their mother had been able to leave 
them. She should have divided it with him. 

24 



II 



SHE had gone to Mrs. Lowder on her mother's death 
gone with an effort the strain and pain of which 
made her at present, as she recalled them, reflect on 
the long way she had travelled since then. There had 
been nothing else to do not a penny in the other 
house, nothing but unpaid bills that had gathered 
thick while its mistress lay mortally ill, and the ad 
monition that there was nothing she must attempt 
to raise money on, since everything belonged to the 
"estate." How the estate would turn out at best 
presented itself as a mystery altogether gruesome ; it 
had proved in fact since then a residuum a trifle less 
scant than, with her sister, she had for some weeks 
feared; but the girl had had at the beginning rather 
a wounded sense of its being watched on behalf of 
Marian and her children. What on earth was it sup 
posed that she wanted to do to it ? She wanted in 
truth only to give up to abandon her own interest, 
which she doubtless would already have done had n't 
the point been subject to Aunt Maud's sharp inter 
vention. Aunt Maud's intervention was all sharp 
now, and the other point, the great one, was that it 
was to be, in this light, either all put up with or all 
declined. Yet at the winter's end, nevertheless, she 
could scarce have said what stand she conceived she 
had taken. It would n't be the first time she had seen 
herself obliged to accept with smothered irony other 
people's interpretation of her conduct. She often 

25 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

ended by giving up to them it seemed really the 
way to live the version that met their convenience. 
The tall rich heavy house at Lancaster Gate, on 
the other side of the Park and the long South Ken 
sington stretches, had figured to her, through child 
hood, through girlhood, as the remotest limit of her 
vague young world. It was further off and more occa 
sional than anything else in the comparatively com 
pact circle in which she revolved, and seemed, by a 
rigour early marked, to be reached through long, 
straight, discouraging vistas, perfect telescopes of 
streets, and which kept lengthening and straightening, 
whereas almost everything else in life was either at the 
worst roundabout Cromwell Road or at the furthest 
in the nearer parts of Kensington Gardens. Mrs. 
Lowder was her only "real" aunt, not the wife of an 
uncle, and had been thereby, both in ancient days and 
when the greater trouble came, the person, of all per 
sons, properly to make some sign; in accord with 
which our young woman's feeling was founded on the 
impression, quite cherished for years, that the signs 
made across the interval just mentioned had never 
been really in the note of the situation. The main 
office of this relative for the young Croys apart 
from giving them their fixed measure of social great 
ness had struck them as being to form them to a 
conception of what they were not to expect. When 
Kate came to think matters over with wider know 
ledge, she failed quite to see how Aunt Maud could 
have been different she had rather perceived by 
this time how many other things might have been; 
yet she also made out that if they had all consciously 

26 



BOOK FIRST 

lived under a liability to the chill breath of ultima 
Thule they could n't, either, on the facts, very well 
have done less. What in the event appeared estab 
lished was that if Mrs. Lowder had disliked them she 
yet had n't disliked them so much as they supposed. 
It had at any rate been for the purpose of showing how 
she struggled with her aversion that she sometimes 
came to see them, that she at regular periods invited 
them to her house and in short, as it now looked, kept 
them along on the terms that would best give her sister 
the perennial luxury of a grievance. This sister, poor 
Mrs. Croy, the girl knew, had always judged her re 
sentfully, and had brought them up, Marian, the boys 
and herself, to the idea of a particular attitude, for 
signs of the practice of which they watched each other 
with awe. The attitude was to make plain to Aunt 
Maud, with the same regularity as her invitations, 
that they sufficed thanks awfully to themselves. 
But the ground of it, Kate lived to discern, was that 
this was only because she did n't suffice to them. The 
little she offered was to be accepted under protest, 
yet not really because it was excessive. It wounded 
them there was the rub ! because it fell short. 
The number of new things our young lady looked 
out on from the high south window that hung over 
the Park this number was so great (though some 
of the things were only old ones altered and, as the 
phrase was of other matters, done up) that life at pre 
sent turned to her view from week to week more and 
more the face of a striking and distinguished stranger. 
She had reached a great age for it quite seemed to 
her that at twenty-five it was late to reconsider, and 

27 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

her most general sense was a shade of regret that she 
had n't known earlier. The world was different 
whether for worse or for better from her rudiment 
ary readings, and it gave her the feeling of a wasted 
past. If she had only known sooner she might have 
arranged herself more to meet it. She made at all 
events discoveries every day, some of which were 
about herself and others about other persons. Two of 
these one under each head more particularly 
engaged, in alternation, her anxiety. She saw as she 
had never seen before how material things spoke to 
her. She saw, and she blushed to see, that if in con 
trast with some of its old aspects life now affected her 
as a dress successfully "done up," this was exactly by 
reason of the trimmings an<i lace, was a matter of 
ribbons and silk and velvet. She had a dire access 
ibility to pleasure from such sources. She liked the 
charming quarters her aunt had assigned her 
liked them literally more than she had in all her other 
days liked anything; and nothing could have been 
more uneasy than her suspicion of her relative's view 
of this truth. Her relative was prodigious she had 
never done her relative justice. These larger con 
ditions all tasted of her, from morning till night; but 
she was a person in respect to whom the growth of 
acquaintance could only strange as it might seem 
keep your heart in your mouth. 

The girl's second great discovery was that, so far 
from having been for Mrs. Lowder a subject of super 
ficial consideration, the blighted home in Lexham 
Gardens had haunted her nights and her days. Kate 
had spent, all winter, hours of observation that were 

28 



BOOK FIRST 

not less pointed for being spent alone; recent events, 
which her mourning explained, assured her a measure 
of isolation, and it was in the isolation above all that 
her neighbour's influence worked. Sitting far down 
stairs Aunt Maud was yet a presence from which a 
sensitive niece could feel herself extremely under press 
ure. She knew herself now, the sensitive niece, as 
having been marked from far back. She knew more 
than she could have told you, by the upstairs fire, in a 
whole dark December afternoon. She knew so much 
that her knowledge was what fairly kept her there, 
making her at times circulate more endlessly between 
the small silk-covered sofa that stood for her in the 
firelight and the great grey map of Middlesex spread 
beneath her lookout. To go down, to forsake her 
refuge, was to meet some of her discoveries halfway, 
to have to face them or fly before them ; whereas they 
were at such a height only like the rumble of a far- 
off siege heard in the provisioned citadel. She had 
almost liked, in these weeks, what had created her 
suspense and her stress: the loss of her mother, the 
submersion of her father, the discomfort of her sister, 
the confirmation of their shrunken prospects, the 
certainty, in especial, of her having to recognise that 
should she behave, as she called it, decently that is 
still do something for others she would be herself 
wholly without supplies. She held that she had a 
right to sadness and stillness; she nursed them for 
their postponing power. What they mainly post 
poned was the question of a surrender, though she 
could n't yet have said exactly of what: a 'general sur 
render of everything that was at moments the way 

29 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

it presented itself to Aunt Maud's looming "per 
sonality." It was by her personality that Aunt Maud 
was prodigious, and the great mass of it loomed be 
cause, in the thick, the foglike air of her arranged 
existence, there were parts doubtless magnified and 
parts certainly vague. They represented at all events 
alike, the dim and the distinct, a strong will and a 
high hand. It was perfectly present to Kate that she 
might be devoured, and she compared herself to a 
trembling kid, kept apart a day or two till her turn 
should come, but sure sooner or later to be introduced 
into the cage of the lioness. 

The cage was Aunt Maud's own room, her office, 
her counting-house, her battlefield, her especial 
scene, in fine, of action, situated on the ground-floor, 
opening from the main hall and figuring rather to our 
young woman on exit and entrance as a guard-house 
or a toll-gate. The lioness waited the kid had at 
least that consciousness ; was aware of the neighbour 
hood of a morsel she had reason to suppose tender. 
She would have been meanwhile a wonderful lioness 
for a show, an extraordinary figure in a cage or any 
where; majestic, magnificent, high-coloured, all 
brilliant gloss, perpetual satin, twinkling bugles and 
flashing gems, with a lustre of agate eyes, a sheen of 
raven hair, a polish of complexion that was like that 
of well-kept china and that as if the skin were toe 
tight told especially at curves and corners. Her 
niece had a quiet name for her she kept it quiet : 
thinking of her, with a free fancy, as somehow typic 
ally insular, she talked to herself of Britannia of the 
Market Place Britannia unmistakeable but with a 

30 



BOOK FIRST 

pen on her ear and felt she should not be happy till 
she might on some occasion add to the rest of the 
panoply a helmet, a shield, a trident and a ledger. It 
was n't in truth, however, that the forces with which, 
as Kate felt, she would have to deal were those most 
suggested by an image simple and broad; she was 
learning after all each day to know her companion, 
and what she had already most perceived was the mis 
take of trusting to easy analogies. There was a whole 
side of Britannia, the side of her florid philistinism, 
her plumes and her train, her fantastic furniture and 
heaving bosom, the false gods of her taste and false 
notes of her talk, the sole contemplation of which 
would be dangerously misleading. She was a com 
plex and subtle Britannia, as passionate as she was 
practical, with a reticule for her prejudices as deep as 
that other pocket, the pocket full of coins stamped in 
her image, that the world best knew her by. She car 
ried on in short, behind her aggressive and defensive 
front, operations determined by her wisdom. It was 
in fact as a besieger, we have hinted, that our young 
lady, in the provisioned citadel, had for the present 
most to think of her, and what made her formidable 
in this character was that she was unscrupulous and 
immoral. So at all events in silent sessions and a 
youthful off-hand way Kate conveniently pictured 
her : what this sufficiently represented being that her 
weight was in the scale of certain dangers those 
dangers that, by our showing, made the younger 
woman linger and lurk above, while the elder, below, 
both militant and diplomatic, covered as much of the 
ground as possible. Yet what were the dangers, after 

31 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

all, but just the dangers of life and of London ? Mrs. 
Lowder was London, was life the roar of the siege 
and the thick of the fray. There were some things, 
after all, of which Britannia was afraid; but Aunt 
Maud was afraid of nothing not even, it would ap 
pear, of arduous thought. 

These impressions, none the less, Kate kept so 
much to herself that she scarce shared them with 
poor Marian, the ostensible purpose of her frequent 
visits to whom yet continued to be to talk over every 
thing. One of her reasons for holding off from the 
last concession to Aunt Maud was that she might 
be the more free to commit herself to this so much 
nearer and so much less fortunate relative, with whom 
Aunt Maud would have almost nothing direct to do. 
The sharpest pinch of her state, meanwhile, was 
exactly that all intercourse with her sister had the 
effect of casting down her courage and tying her 
hands, adding daily to her sense of the part, not 
always either uplifting or sweetening, that the bond 
of blood might play in one's life. She was face to face 
with it now, with the bond of blood ; the conscious 
ness of it was what she seemed most clearly to have 
"come into" by the death of her mother, much of 
that consciousness as her mother had absorbed and 
carried away. Her haunting harassing father, her 
menacing uncompromising aunt, her portionless little 
nephews and nieces, were figures that caused the 
chord of natural piety superabundantly to vibrate. 
Her manner of putting it to herself but more espe 
cially in respect to Marian was that she saw what 
you might be brought to by the cultivation of con- 

32 



BOOK FIRST 

sanguinity. She had taken, in the old days, as she 
supposed, the measure of this liability; those being 
the days when, as the second-born, she had thought 
no one in the world so pretty as Marian, no one so 
charming, so clever, so assured in advance of happi 
ness and success. The view was different now, but 
her attitude had been obliged, for many reasons, to 
show as the same. The subject of this estimate was 
no longer pretty, as the reason for thinking her clever 
was no longer plain; yet, bereaved, disappointed, 
demoralised, querulous, she was all the more sharply 
and insistently Kate's elder and Kate's own. Kate's 
most constant feeling about her was that she would 
make her, Kate, do things ; and always, in comfortless 
Chelsea, at the door of the small house the small rent 
of which she could n't help having on her mind, she 
fatalistically asked herself, before going in, which 
thing it would probably be this time. She noticed 
with profundity that disappointment made people 
selfish ; she marvelled at the serenity it was the 
poor woman's only one of what Marian took for 
granted : her own state of abasement as the second- 
born, her life reduced to mere inexhaustible sister 
hood. She existed in that view wholly for the small 
house in Chelsea; the moral of which moreover, of 
course, was that the more you gave yourself the less 
of you was left. There were always people to snatch at 
you, and it would never occur to them that they were 
eating you up. They did that without tasting. 

There was no such misfortune, or at any rate no 
such discomfort, she further reasoned, as to be formed 
it once for being and for seeing. You always saw, 

33 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

in this case something else than what you were, and 
you got in consequence none of the peace of your 
condition. However, as she never really let Marian 
see what she was Marian might well not have been 
aware that she herself saw. Kate was accordingly 
to her own vision not a hypocrite of virtue, for she 
gave herself up ; but she was a hypocrite of stupidity, 
for she kept to herself everything that was not herself. 
What she most kept was the particular sentiment with 
which she watched her sister instinctively neglect 
nothing that would make for her submission to their 
aunt; a state of the spirit that perhaps marked most 
sharply how poor you might become when you minded 
so much the absence of wealth. It was through Kate 
that Aunt Maud should be worked, and nothing mat 
tered less than what might become of Kate in the 
process. Kate was to burn her ships in short, so that 
Marian should profit; and Marian's desire to profit 
was quite oblivious of a dignity that had after all 
its reasons if it had only understood them for 
keeping itself a little stiff. Kate, to be properly stiff 
for both of them, would therefore have had to be 
selfish, have had to prefer an ideal of behaviour 
than which nothing ever was more selfish to the 
possibility of stray crumbs for the four small creat 
ures. The tale of Mrs. Lowder's disgust at her elder 
niece's marriage to Mr. Condrip had lost little of its 
point; the incredibly fatuous behaviour of Mr. Con- 
drip, the parson of a dull suburban parish, with a 
saintly profile which was always in evidence, being 
so distinctly on record to keep criticism consistent. 
He had presented his profile on system, having, good- 

34 



BOOK FIRST 

ness knew, nothing else to present nothing at all 
to full-face the world with, no imagination of the pro 
priety of living and minding his business. Criticism 
had remained on Aunt Maud's part consistent enough ; 
she was not a person to regard such proceedings as 
less of a mistake for having acquired more of the 
privilege of pathos. She had n't been forgiving, and 
the only approach she made to overlooking them was 
by overlooking with the surviving delinquent 
the solid little phalanx that now represented them. 
Of the two sinister ceremonies that she lumped to 
gether, the marriage and the interment, she had been 
present at the former, just as she had sent Marian 
before it a liberal cheque; but this had not been for 
her more than the shadow of an admitted link with 
Mrs. Condrip's course. She disapproved of clamor 
ous children for whom there was no prospect; she 
disapproved of weeping widows who could n't make 
their errors good ; and she had thus put within Mari 
an's reach one of the few luxuries left when so much 
else had gone, an easy pretext for a constant griev 
ance. Kate Croy remembered well what their mother, 
in a different quarter, had made of it; and it was 
Marian's marked failure to pluck the fruit of resent 
ment that committed them as sisters to an almost 
equal fellowship in abjection. If the theory was that, 
yes, alas, one of the pair had ceased to be noticed, but 
that the other was noticed enough to make up for it, 
who would fail to see that Kate could n't separate 
herself without a cruel pride ? That lesson became 
sharp for our young lady the day after her interview 
with her father. 

35 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

"I can't imagine," Marian on this occasion said 
to her, "how you can think of anything else in the 
world but the horrid way we're situated." 

"And, pray, how do you .know," Kate enquired 
in reply, "anything about my thoughts? It seems 
to me I give you sufficient proof of how much I 
think of you. I don't really, my dear, know what 
else you 've to do with ! " 

Marian's retort on this was a stroke as to which 
she had supplied herself with several kinds of pre 
paration, but there was none the less something of an 
unexpected note in its promptitude. She had foreseen 
her sister's general fear ; but here, ominously, was the 
special one. "Well, your own business is of course 
your own business, and you may say there 's no one 
less in a position than I to preach to you. But, all the 
same, if you wash your hands of me for ever in con 
sequence, I won't, for this once, keep back that I 
don't consider you 've a right, as we all stand, to throw 
yourself away." 

It was after the children's dinner, which was also 
their mother's, but which their aunt mostly con 
trived to keep from ever becoming her own luncheon ; 
and the two young women were still in the presence of 
the crumpled table-cloth, the dispersed pinafores, the 
scraped dishes, the lingering odour of boiled food. 
Kate had asked with ceremony if she might put up a 
window a little, and Mrs. Condrip had replied without 
it that she might do as she liked. She often received 
such enquiries as if they reflected in a manner on the 
pure essence of her little ones. The four had retired, 
with much movement and noise, under imperfect 

36 



BOOK FIRST 

control of the small Irish governess whom their aunt 
had hunted up for them and whose brooding resolve 
not to prolong so uncrowned a martyrdom she already 
more than suspected. Their mother had become for 
Kate who took it just for the effect of being 
their mother quite a different thing from the mild 
Marian of the past : Mr. Condrip's widow expansively 
obscured that image. She was little more than a 
ragged relic, a plain prosaic result of him as if she 
had somehow been pulled through him as through an 
obstinate funnel, only to be left crumpled and useless 
and with nothing in her but what he accounted for. 
She had grown red and almost fat, which were not 
happy signs of mourning; less and less like any Croy, 
particularly a Croy in trouble, and sensibly like her 
husband's two unmarried sisters, who came to see 
her, in Kate's view, much too often and stayed too 
long, with the consequence of inroads upon the tea 
and bread-and-butter matters as to which Kate, 
not unconcerned with the tradesmen's books, had 
feelings. About them moreover Marian was touchy, 
and her nearer relative, who observed and weighed 
things, noted as an oddity that she would have taken 
any reflexion on them as a reflexion on herself. If 
that was what marriage necessarily did to you Kate 
Croy would have questioned marriage. It was at any 
rate a grave example of what a man and such a 
man ! might make of a woman. She could see how 
the Condrip pair pressed their brother's widow on the 
subject of Aunt Maud who was n't, after all, their 
aunt; made her, over their interminable cups, chatter 
and even swagger about Lancaster Gate, made her 

37 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

more vulgar than it had seemed written that any Croy 
could possibly become on such a subject. They laid 
it down, they rubbed it in, that Lancaster Gate was 
to be kept in sight, and that she, Kate, was to keep it ; 
so that, curiously, or at all events sadly, our young 
woman was sure of being in her own person more 
permitted to them as an object of comment than they 
would in turn ever be permitted to herself. The 
beauty of which too was that Marian did n't love 
them. But they were Condrips they had grown 
near the rose; they were almost like Bertie and 
Maudie, like Kitty and Guy. They talked of the 
dead to her, which Kate never did ; it being a relation 
in which Kate could but mutely listen. She could n't 
indeed too often say to herself that if that was what 
marriage did to you ! It may easily be guessed 
therefore that the ironic light of such reserves fell 
straight across the field of Marian's warning. "I 
don't quite see," she answered, "where in particular 
it strikes you that my danger lies. I 'm not conscious, 
I assure you, of the least disposition to 'throw' myself 
anywhere. I feel that for the present I 've been quite 
sufficiently thrown." 

"You don't feel" Marian brought it all out 
"that you'd like to marry Merton Densher ?" 

Kate took a moment to meet this enquiry. "Is it 
your idea that if I should feel so I would be bound to 
give you notice, so that you might step in and head me 
off? Is that your idea ?" the girl asked. Then as her 
sister also had a pause, "I don't know what makes 
you talk of Mr. Densher," she observed. 

"I talk of him just because you don't. That you 

38 



BOOK FIRST 

never do, in spite of what I know that 's what 
makes me think of him. Or rather perhaps it's what 
makes me think of you. If you don't know by this 
time what I hope for you, what I dream of my at 
tachment being what it is it 's no use my attempting 
to tell you." But Marian had in fact warmed to her 
work, and Kate was sure she had discussed Mr. 
Densher with the Miss Condrips. "If I name that 
person I suppose it's because I'm so afraid of him. 
If you want really to know, he fills me with terror. If 
you want really to know, in fact, I dislike him as much 
as I dread him." 

"And yet don't think it dangerous to abuse him to 
me?" 

"Yes," Mrs. Condrip confessed, "I do think it 
dangerous ; but how can I speak of him otherwise ? 
I dare say, I admit, that I should n't speak of him at 
all. Only I do want you for once, as I said just now, 
to know." 

"To know what, my dear ?" 

"That I should regard it," Marian promptly re 
turned, "as far and away the worst thing that has 
happened to us yet." 

" Do you mean because he has n't money ? " 

"Yes, for one thing. And because I don't believe in 
him." 

Kate was civil but mechanical. "What do you mean 
by not believing in him ? " 

"Well, being sure he '11 never get it. And you must 
have it. You shall have it." 

"To give it to you ?" 

Marian met her with a readiness that was prac- 
39 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

tically pert. "To have it, first. Not at any rate to 
go on not having it. Then we should see." 

"We should indeed !" said Kate Croy. It was talk 
of a kind she loathed, but if Marian chose to be vulgar 
what was one to do ? It made her think of the Miss 
Condrips with renewed aversion. "I like the way you 
arrange things I like what you take for granted. 
If it 's so easy for us to marry men who want us to 
scatter gold, I wonder we any of us do anything else. 
I don't see so many of them about, nor what interest I 
might ever have for them. You live, my dear," she 
presently added, "in a world of vain thoughts." 

" Not so much as you, Kate ; for I see what I see and 
you can't turn it off that way." The elder sister 
paused long enough for the younger's face to show, in 
spite of superiority, an apprehension. "I 'm not talk 
ing of any man but Aunt Maud's man, nor of any 
money even, if you like, but Aunt Maud's money. 
I 'm not talking of anything but your doing what she 
wants. You 're wrong if you speak of anything that I 
want of you; I want nothing but what she does. 
That's good enough for me!" and Marian's tone 
struck her companion as of the lowest. "If I don't 
believe in Merton Densher I do at least in Mrs. 
Lowder." 

"Your ideas are the more striking," Kate returned, 
"that they 're the same as papa's. I had them from 
him, you '11 be interested to know and with all the 
brilliancy you may imagine yesterday." 

Marian clearly was interested to know. "He has 
been to see you ? " 

"No, I went to him." 

40 



BOOK FIRST 

"Really?" Marian wondered. "For what pur- 
pose?" ' 

"To tell him I 'm ready to go to him." 

Marian stared. "To leave Aunt Maud ?" 

"For my father, yes." 

She had fairly flushed, poor Mrs. Condrip, with 
horror. " You 're ready ? " 

"So I told him. I could n't tell him less." 

"And pray could you tell him more?" Marian 
gasped in her distress. "What in the world is he to 
us ? You bring out such a thing as that this way ? " 

They faced each other the tears were in Mar 
ian's eyes. Kate watched them there a moment and 
then said: "I had thought it well over over and 
over. But you need n't feel injured. I 'm not going. 
He won't have me." 

Her companion still panted it took time to sub 
side. "Well, / wouldn't have you wouldn't re 
ceive you at all, I can assure you if he had made 
you any other answer. I do feel injured at your 
having been willing. If you were to go to papa, my 
dear, you 'd have to stop coming to me." Marian put 
it thus, indefinably, as a picture of privation from 
which her companion might shrink. Such were the 
threats she could complacently make, could think 
herself masterful for making. " But if he won't take 
you," she continued, "he shows at least his sharp 



ness." 



Marian had always her views of sharpness; she 
was, as her sister privately commented, great on that 
resource. But Kate had her refuge from irritation. 
"He won't take me," she simply repeated. "But he 

41 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

believes, like you, in Aunt Maud. He threatens me 
with his curse if I leave her." 

"So you won't?" As the girl at first said nothing 
her companion caught at it. " You won't, of course ? 
I see you won't. But I don't see why, conveniently, I 
should n't insist to you once for all on the plain truth 
of the whole matter. The truth, my dear, of your 
duty. Do you ever think about that? It's the greatest 
duty of all." 

"There you are again," Kate laughed. "Papa's 
also immense on my duty." 

"Oh I don't pretend to be immense, but I pretend 
to know more than you do of life; more even perhaps 
than papa." Marian seemed to see that personage 
at this moment, nevertheless, in the light of a kinder 
irony. " Poor old papa ! " 

She sighed it with as many condonations as her 
sister's ear had more than once caught in her " Dear 
old Aunt Maud!" These were things that made 
Kate turn for the time sharply away, and she gathered 
herself now to go. They were the note again of the 
abject; it was hard to say which of the persons in 
question had most shown how little they liked her. 
The younger woman proposed at any rate to let dis 
cussion rest, and she believed that, for herself, she 
had done so during the ten minutes elapsing, thanks 
to her wish not to break off short, before she could 
gracefully withdraw. It then appeared, however, that 
Marian had been discussing still, and there was some 
thing that at the last Kate had to take up. "Whom 
do you mean by Aunt Maud's young man ? " 

"Whom should I mean but Lord Mark?" 
42 



BOOK FIRST 

"And where do you pick up such vulgar twad 
dle ? " Kate demanded with her clear face. "How does 
such stuff, in this hole, get to you ? " 

She had no sooner spoken than she asked herself 
what had become of the grace to which she had sacri 
ficed. Marian certainly did little to save it, and no 
thing indeed was so inconsequent as her ground of 
complaint. She desired her to "work" Lancaster 
Gate as she believed that scene of abundance could 
be worked ; but she now did n't see why advantage 
should be taken of the bloated connexion to put an 
affront on her own poor home. She appeared in fact 
for the moment to take the position that Kate kept her 
in her "hole" and then heartlessly reflected on her 
being in it. Yet she did n't explain how she had picked 
up the report on which her sister had challenged her 
so that it was thus left to her sister to see in it once 
more a sign of the creeping curiosity of the Miss 
Condrips. They lived in a deeper hole than Marian, 
but they kept their ear to the ground, they spent their 
days in prowling, whereas Marian, in garments and 
shoes that seemed steadily to grow looser and larger, 
never prowled. There were times when Kate won 
dered if the Miss Condrips were offered her by fate as 
a warning for her own future to be taken as show 
ing her what she herself might become at forty if she 
let things too recklessly go. What was expected of her 
by others and by so many of them could, all the 
same, on occasion, present itself as beyond a joke; and 
this was just now the aspect it particularly wore. She 
was not only to quarrel with Merton Densher for the 
pleasure of her five spectators with the Miss Con- 

43 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

drips there were five; she was to set forth in pursuit of 
Lord Mark on some preposterous theory of the pre 
mium attached to success. Mrs. Lowder's hand had 
hung out the premium, and it figured at the end of the 
; course as a bell that would ring, break out into public 
clamour, as soon as touched. Kate reflected sharply 
enough on the weak points of this fond fiction, with 
the result at last of a certain chill for her sister's con 
fidence; though Mrs. Condrip still took refuge in the 
plea which was after all the great point that their 
aunt would be munificent when their aunt should be 
content. The exact identity of her candidate was a 
detail ; what was of the essence was her conception of 
the kind of match it was open to her niece to make 
with her aid. Marian always spoke of marriages as 
"matches," but that was again a detail. Mrs. Low 
der's "aid" meanwhile awaited them if not to 
light the way to Lord Mark, then to somebody better. 
Marian would put up, in fine, with somebody better ; 
she only would n't put up with somebody so much 
worse. Kate had once more to go through all this 
before a graceful issue was reached. It was reached 
by her paying with the sacrifice of Mr. Densher for her 
reduction of Lord Mark to the absurd. So they sep 
arated softly enough. She was to be let off hearing 
about Lord Mark so long as she made it good that she 
was n't underhand about any one else. She had 
denied everything and every one, she reflected as she 
went away and that was a relief; but it also made 
rather a clean sweep of the future. The prospect put 
on a bareness that already gave her something in 
common with the Miss Condrips. 



BOOK SECOND 



MERTON DENSHER, who passed the best hours of each 
night at the office of his newspaper, had at times, dur 
ing the day, to make up for it, a sense, or at least an 
appearance, of leisure, in accordance with which he 
was not infrequently to be met in different parts of the 
town at moments when men of business are hidden 
from the public eye. More than once during the pre 
sent winter's end he had deviated toward three 
o'clock, or toward four, into Kensington Gardens, 
where he might for a while, on each occasion, have 
been observed to demean himself as a person with no 
thing to do. He made his way indeed, for the most 
part, with a certain directness over to the north side; 
but once that ground was reached his behaviour was 
noticeably wanting in point. He moved, seemingly at 
random, from alley to alley; he stopped for no reason 
and remained idly agaze ; he sat down in a chair and 
then changed to a bench ; after which he walked about 
again, only again to repeat both the vagueness and the 
vivacity. Distinctly he was a man either with nothing 
at all to do or with ever so much to think about; and 
it was not to be denied that the impression he might 
often thus easily make had the effect of causing the 
burden of proof in certain directions to rest on him. It 
was a little the fault of his aspect, his personal marks, 
which made it almost impossible to name his profes 
sion. 

47 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

He was a longish, leanish, fairish young English 
man, not unamenable, on certain sides, to classifica 
tion as for instance by being a gentleman, by being 
rather specifically one of the educated, one of the gen 
erally sound and generally civil; yet, though to that 
degree neither extraordinary nor abnormal, he would 
have failed to play straight into an observer's hands. 
He was young for the House of Commons, he was 
loose for the Army. He was refined, as might have 
been said, for the City and, quite apart from the cut of 
his cloth, sceptical, it might have been felt, for the 
Church. On the other hand he was credulous for diplo 
macy, or perhaps even for science, while he was per 
haps at the same time too much in his mere senses for 
poetry and yet too little in them for art. You would 
have got fairly near him by making out in his eyes the 
potential recognition of ideas; but you would have 
quite fallen away again on the question of the ideas 
themselves. The difficulty with Densher was that he 
looked vague without looking weak idle without 
looking empty. It was the accident, possibly, of his 
long legs, which were apt to stretch themselves; of 
his straight hair and his well-shaped head, never, the 
latter, neatly smooth, and apt into the bargain, at the 
time of quite other calls upon it, to throw itself sud 
denly back and, supported behind by his uplifted 
arms and interlocked hands, place him for uncon 
scionable periods in communion with the ceiling, the 
tree-tops, the sky. He was in short visibly absent- 
minded, irregularly clever, liable to drop what was 
near and to take up what was far; he was more a 
prompt critic than a prompt follower of custom. He 



BOOK SECOND 

suggested above all, however, that wondrous state of 
youth in which the elements, the metals more or less 
precious, are so in fusion and fermentation that the 
question of the final stamp, the pressure that fixes the 
value, must wait for comparative coolness. And it was 
a mark of his interesting mixture that if he was irrit 
able it was by a law of considerable subtlety a law 
that in intercourse with him it might be of profit, 
though not easy, to master. One of the effects of it 
was that he had for you surprises of tolerance as well 
as of temper. 

He loitered, on the best of the relenting days, the 
several occasions we speak of, along the part of the 
Gardens nearest to Lancaster Gate, and when, 
always, in due time, Kate Croy came out of her 
aunt's house, crossed the road and arrived by the 
nearest entrance, there was a general publicity in the 
proceeding which made it slightly anomalous. If their 
meeting was to be bold and free it might have taken 
place within-doors ; if it was to be shy or secret it might 
have taken place almost anywhere better than under 
Mrs. Lowder's windows. They failed indeed to re 
main attached to that spot; they wandered and 
strolled, taking in the course of more than one of these 
interviews a considerable walk, or else picked out a 
couple of chairs under one of the great trees and sat as 
much apart apart from every one else as pos 
sible. But Kate had each time, at first, the air of wish 
ing to expose herself to pursuit and capture if those 
things were in question. She made the point that she 
was n't underhand, any more than she was vulgar; 
that the Gardens were charming in themselves and 

49 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

this use of them a matter of taste; and that, if her aunt 
chose to glare at her from the drawing-room or to 
cause her to be tracked and overtaken, she could at 
least make it convenient that this should be easily 
done. The fact was that the relation between these 
young persons abounded in such oddities as were not 
inaptly symbolised by assignations that had a good 
deal more appearance than motive. Of the strength of 
the tie that held them we shall sufficiently take the 
measure; but it was meanwhile almost obvious that if 
the great possibility had come up for them it had done 
so, to an exceptional degree, under the protection of 
the famous law of contraries. Any deep harmony that 
might eventually govern them would not be the result 
of their having much in common having anything 
in fact but their affection; and would really find its 
explanation in some sense, on the part of each, of 
being poor where the other was rich. It is nothing 
new indeed that generous young persons often admire 
most what nature has n't given them from which 
it would appear, after all, that our friends were both 
generous. 

Merton Densher had repeatedly said to himself 
and from far back that he should be a fool not to 
marry a woman whose value would be in her differ 
ences ; and Kate Croy, though without having quite so 
philosophised, had quickly recognised in the young 
man a precious unlikeness. He represented what her 
life had never given her and certainly, without some 
such aid as his, never would give her; all the high dim 
things she lumped together as of the mind. It was on 
the side of the mind that Densher was rich for her and 

50 



BOOK SECOND 

mysterious and strong; and he had rendered her in 
especial the sovereign service of making that element 
real. She had had all her days to take it terribly on 
trust, no creature she had ever encountered having 
been able to testify for it directly. Vague rumours of 
its existence had made their precarious way to her; 
but nothing had, on the whole, struck her as more 
likely than that she should live and die without the 
chance to verify them. The chance had come it 
was an extraordinary one on the day she first met 
Densher; and it was to the girl's lasting honour that 
she knew on the spot what she was in presence of. 
That occasion indeed, for everything that straightway 
flowered in it, would be worthy of high commemora 
tion; Densher's perception went out to meet the 
young woman's and quite kept pace with her own re 
cognition. Having so often concluded on the fact of 
his weakness, as he called it, for life his strength 
merely for thought life, he logically opined, was 
what he must somehow arrange to annex and possess. 
This was so much a necessity that thought by itself 
only went on in the void ; it was from the immediate 
air of life that it must draw its breath. So the young 
man, ingenious but large, critical but ardent too, 
made out both his case and Kate Croy's. They had 
originally met before her mother's death an occa 
sion marked for her as the last pleasure permitted by 
the approach of that event; after which the dark 
months had interposed a screen and, for all Kate 
knew, made the end one with the beginning. 

The beginning to which she often went back 
had been a scene, for our young woman, of supreme 

5 1 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

brilliancy; a party given at a "gallery" hired by a 
hostess who fished with big nets. A Spanish dancer, 
understood to be at that moment the delight of the 
town, an American reciter, the joy of a kindred people, 
an Hungarian fiddler, the wonder of the world at 
large in the name of these and other attractions the 
company in which Kate, by a rare privilege, found her 
self had been freely convoked. She lived under her 
mother's roof, as she considered, obscurely, and was 
acquainted with few persons who entertained on that 
scale; but she had had dealings with two or three 
connected, as appeared, with such two or three 
through whom the stream of hospitality, filtered or 
diffused, could thus now and then spread to outlying 
receptacles. A good-natured lady in fine, a friend of 
her mother and a relative of the lady of the gallery, 
had offered to take her to the party in question and 
had there fortified her, further, with two or three of 
those introductions that, at large parties, lead to other 
things that had at any rate on this occasion cul 
minated for her in conversation with a tall fair, a 
slightly unbrushed and rather awkward, but on the 
whole a not dreary, young man. The young man had 
affected her as detached, as it was indeed what he 
called himself awfully at sea, as much more dis 
tinct from what surrounded them than any one else 
appeared to be, and even as probably quite disposed 
to be making his escape when pulled up to be placed in 
relation with her. He gave her his word for it indeed, 
this same evening, that only their meeting had pre 
vented his flight, but that now he saw how sorry he 
should have been to miss it. This point they had 

52 



BOOK SECOND 

reached by midnight, and though for the value of such 
remarks everything was in the tone, by midnight the 
tone was there too. She had had originally her full 
apprehension of his coerced, certainly of his vague, 
condition full apprehensions often being with her 
immediate; then she had had her equal consciousness 
that within five minutes something between them 
had well, she could n't call it anything but come. It 
was nothing to look at or to handle, but was somehow 
everything to feel and to know; it was that something 
for each of them had happened. 

They had found themselves regarding each other 
straight, and for a longer time on end than was usual 
even at parties in galleries ; but that in itself after all 
would have been a small affair for two such hand 
some persons. It was n't, in a word, simply that their 
eyes had met; other conscious organs, faculties, feelers 
had met as well, and when Kate afterwards imaged to 
herself the sharp deep fact she saw it, in the oddest 
way, as a particular performance. She had observed a 
ladder against a garden-wall and had trusted herself so 
to climb it as to be able to see over into the probable 
garden on the other side. On reaching the top she had 
found herself face to face with a gentleman engaged 
in a like calculation at the same moment, and the two 
enquirers had remained confronted on their ladders. 
The great point was that for the rest of that evening 
they had been perched they had not climbed down; 
and indeed during the time that followed Kate at least 
had had the perched feeling it was as if she were 
there aloft without a retreat. A simpler expression of 
all this is doubtless but that they had taken each other 

53 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

in with interest; and without a happy hazard six 
months later the incident would have closed in that 
account of it. The accident meanwhile had been as 
natural as anything in London ever is : Kate had one 
afternoon found herself opposite Mr. Densher on the 
Underground Railway. She had entered the train at 
Sloane Square to go to Queen's Road, and the car 
riage in which she took her place was all but full. 
Densher was already in it on the other bench and 
at the furthest angle ; she was sure of him before they 
had again started. The day and the hour were dark 
ness, there were six other persons and she had been 
busy seating herself; but her consciousness had gone 
to him as straight as if they had come together in 
some bright stretch of a desert. They had on neither 
part a second's hesitation; they looked across the 
choked compartment exactly as if she had known he 
would be there and he had expected her to come in ; so 
that, though in the conditions they could only exchange 
the greeting of movements, smiles, abstentions, it 
would have been quite in the key of these passages 
that they should have alighted for ease at the very next 
station. Kate was in fact sure the very next station 
was the young man's true goal which made it clear 
he was going on only from the wish to speak to her. 
He had to go on, for this purpose, to High Street 
Kensington, as it was not till then that the exit of 
a passenger gave him his chance. 

His chance put him however in quick possession 
of the seat facing her, the alertness of his capture of 
which seemed to show her his impatience. It helped 
them moreover, with strangers on either side, little to 

54 



BOOK SECOND 

talk ; though this very restriction perhaps made such a 
mark for them as nothing else could have done. If the 
fact that their opportunity had again come round for 
them could be so intensely expressed without a word, 
they might very well feel on the spot that it had not 
come round for nothing. The extraordinary part of 
the matter was that they were not in the least meeting 
where they had left off, but ever so much further on, 
and that these added links added still another between 
High Street and Netting Hill Gate, and then worked 
between the latter station and Queen's Road an exten 
sion really inordinate. At Notting Hill Gate Kate's 
right-hand neighbour descended, whereupon Densher 
popped straight into that seat; only there was not 
much gained when a lady the next instant popped 
into Densher's. He could say almost nothing Kate 
scarce knew, at least, what he said ; she was so occu 
pied with a certainty that one of the persons opposite, 
a youngish man with a single eye-glass which he kept 
constantly in position, had made her out from the first 
as visibly, as strangely affected. If such a person made 
her out what then did Densher do ? a question in 
truth sufficiently answered when, on their reaching her 
station, he instantly followed her out of the train. 
That had been the real beginning the beginning of 
everything else ; the other time, the time at the party, 
had been but the beginning of that. Never in life be 
fore had she so let herself go ; for always before so 
far as small adventures could have been in question 
for her there had been, by the vulgar measure, 
more to go upon. He had walked with her to Lancas 
ter Gate, and then she had walked with him away 

55 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

from it for all the world, she said to herself, like the 
housemaid giggling to the baker. 

This appearance, she was afterwards to feel, had 
been all in order for a relation that might precisely 
best be described in the terms of the baker and the 
housemaid. She could say to herself that from that 
hour they had kept company : that had come to repre 
sent, technically speaking, alike the range and the 
limit of their tie. He had on the spot, naturally, asked 
leave to call upon her- which, as a young person 
who was n't really young, who did n't pretend to be a 
sheltered flower, she as rationally gave. That she 
was promptly clear about it was now her only pos 
sible basis; she was just the contemporary London 
female, highly modern, inevitably battered, honour 
ably free. She had of course taken her aunt straight 
into her confidence had gone through the form of 
asking her leave; and she subsequently remembered 
that though on this occasion she had left the history of 
her new alliance as scant as the facts themselves, Mrs. 
Lowder had struck her at the time as surprisingly 
mild. The occasion had been in every way full of 
the reminder that her hostess was deep : it was defin 
itely then that she had begun to ask herself what 
Aunt Maud was, in vulgar parlance, "up to." "You 
may receive, my dear, whom you like " that was 
what Aunt Maud, who in general objected to people's 
doing as they liked, had replied ; and it bore, this un 
expectedness, a good deal of looking into. There were 
many explanations, and they were all amusing 
amusing, that is, in the line of the sombre and brood 
ing amusement cultivated by Kate in her actual high 

56 



BOOK SECOND 

retreat. Merton Densher came the very next Sunday; 
but Mrs. Lowder was so consistently magnanimous as 
to make it possible to her niece to see him alone. She 
saw him, however, on the Sunday following, in order 
to invite him to dinner; and when, after dining, he 
came again which he did three times, she found 
means to treat his visit as preponderantly to herself. 
Kate's conviction that she did n't like him made that 
remarkable; it added to the evidence, by this time 
voluminous, that she was remarkable all round. If 
she had been, in the way of energy, merely usual she 
would have kept her dislike direct; whereas it was 
now as if she were seeking to know him in order to see 
best where to "have" him. That was one of the re 
flexions made in our young woman's high retreat; she 
smiled from her lookout, in the silence that was only 
the fact of hearing irrelevant sounds, as she caught 
the truth that you could easily accept people when you 
wanted them so to be delivered to you. When Aunt 
Maud wished them dispatched it was not to be done 
by deputy ; it was clearly always a matter reserved for 
her own hand. 

But what made the girl wonder most was the impli 
cation of so much diplomacy in respect to her own 
value. What view might she take of her position in the 
light of this appearance that her companion feared so 
as yet to upset her ? It was as if Densher were ac 
cepted partly under the dread that if he had n't been 
she would act in resentment. Had n't her aunt con 
sidered the danger that she would in that case have 
broken off, have seceded ? The danger was exagger 
ated she would have done nothing so gross; but that, 

57 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

it would seem, was the way Mrs. Lowder saw her and 
believed her to be reckoned with. What importance 
therefore did she really attach to her, what strange in 
terest could she take in their keeping on terms ? Her 
father and her sister had their answer to this even 
without knowing how the question struck her: they 
saw the lady of Lancaster Gate as panting to make her 
fortune, and the explanation of that appetite was 
that, on the accident of a nearer view than she had 
before enjoyed, she had been charmed, been dazzled. 
They approved, they admired in her one of the be 
lated fancies of rich capricious violent old women 
the more marked moreover because the result of no 
plot ; and they piled up the possible fruits for the per 
son concerned. Kate knew what to think of her own 
power thus to carry by storm ; she saw herself as hand 
some, no doubt, but as hard, and felt herself as clever 
but as cold ; and as so much too imperfectly ambitious, 
futhermore, that it was a pity, for a quiet life, she 
could n't decide to be either finely or stupidly indiffer 
ent. Her intelligence sometimes kept her still too 
still but her want of it was restless ; so that she got 
the good, it seemed to her, of neither extreme. She 
saw herself at present, none the less, in a situation, and 
even her sad disillusioned mother, dying, but with 
Aunt Maud interviewing the nurse on the stairs, had 
not failed to remind her that it was of the essence of 
situations to be, under Providence, worked. The dear 
woman had died in the belief that she was actually 
working the one then recognised. 

Kate took one of her walks with Densher just after 
her visit to Mr. Croy; but most of it went, as usual, to 

58 



BOOK SECOND 

their sitting in talk. They had under the trees by the 
lake the air of old friends particular phases of ap 
parent earnestness in which they might have been 
settling every question in their vast young world ; and 
periods of silence, side by side, perhaps even more, 
when "A long engagement!" would have been the 
final reading of the signs on the part of a passer struck 
with them, as it was so easy to be. They would have 
presented themselves thus as very old friends rather 
than as young persons who had met for the first time 
but a year before and had spent most of the interval 
without contact. It was indeed for each, already, as if 
they were older friends ; and though the succession of 
their meetings might, between them, have been 
straightened out, they only had a confused sense of 
a good many, very much alike, and a confused inten 
tion of a good many more, as little different as pos 
sible. The desire to keep them just as they were had 
perhaps to do with the fact that in spite of the pre 
sumed diagnosis of the stranger there had been for 
them as yet no formal, no final understanding. Den- 
sher had at the very first pressed the question, but 
that, it had been easy to reply, was too soon ; so that 
a singular thing had afterwards happened. They 
had accepted their acquaintance as too short for an 
engagement, but they had treated it as long enough 
for almost anything else, and marriage was some 
how before them like a temple without an avenue. 
They belonged to the temple and they met in the 
grounds; they were in the stage at which grounds 
in general offered much scattered refreshment. But 
Kate had meanwhile had so few confidants that 

59 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

she wondered at the source of her father's suspicions. 
The diffusion of rumour was of course always re 
markable in London, and for Marian not less as 
Aunt Maud touched neither directly the mystery 
had worked. No doubt she had been seen. Of 
course she had been seen. She had taken no trouble 
not to be seen, and it was a thing she was clearly in 
capable of taking. But she had been seen how ? 
and what was there to see ? She was in love she 
knew that : but it was wholly her own business, and 
she had the sense of having conducted herself, of still 
so doing, with almost violent conformity. 

" I 've an idea in fact I feel sure that Aunt 
Maud means to write to you; and I think you had 
better know it." So much as this she said to him as 
soon as they met, but immediately adding to it : " So 
as to make up your mind how to take her. I know 
pretty well what she '11 say to you." 

"Then will you kindly tell me ?" 

She thought a little. " I can't do that. I should. spoil 
it. She '11 do the best for her own idea." 

"Her idea, you mean, that I'm a sort of a scoun 
drel ; or, at the best, not good enough for you ? " 

They were side by side again in their penny chairs, 
and Kate had another pause. "Not good enough for 
her." 

"Oh I see. And that's necessary." 

He put it as a truth rather more than as a question; 
but there had been plenty of truths between them that 
each had contradicted. Kate, however, let this one 
sufficiently pass, only saying the next moment: "She 
has behaved extraordinarily." 

60 



BOOK SECOND 

"And so have we," Densher declared. "I think, 
you know, we've been awfully decent." 

" For ourselves, for each other, for people in general, 
yes. But not for her. For her," said Kate, "we've 
been monstrous. She has been giving us rope. So if 
she does send for you," the girl repeated, "you must 
know where you are." 

"That I always know. It 's where you are that con 
cerns me." 

"Well," said Kate after an instant, "her idea of 
that is what you'll have from her." He gave her a 
long look, and whatever else people who would n't let 
her alone might have wished, for her advancement, 
his long looks were the thing in the world she could 
never have enough of. What she felt was that, what 
ever might happen, she must keep them, must make 
them most completely her possession ; and it was al 
ready strange enough that she reasoned, or at all 
events began to act, as if she might work them in with 
other and alien things, privately cherish them and yet, 
as regards the rigour of it, pay no price. She looked it 
well in the face, she took it intensely home, that they 
were lovers; she rejoiced to herself and, frankly, to 
him, in their wearing of the name; but, distinguished 
creature that, in her way, she was, she took a view of 
this character that scarce squared with the conven 
tional. The character itself she insisted on as their 
right, taking that so for granted that it did n't seem 
even bold; but Densher, though he agreed with her, 
found himself moved to wonder at her simplifications, 
her values. Life might prove difficult was evidently 
going to; but meanwhile they had each other, and 

61 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

that was everything. This was her reasoning, but 
meanwhile, for him, each other was what they did n't 
have, and it was just the point. Repeatedly, however, 
it was a point that, in the face of strange and special 
things, he judged it rather awkwardly gross to urge. 
It was impossible to keep Mrs. Lowder out of their 
scheme. She stood there too close to it and too solidly; 
it had to open a gate, at a given point, do what they 
would, to take her in. And she came in, always, while 
they sat together rather helplessly watching her, as in 
a coach-and-four; she drove round their prospect as 
the principal lady at the circus drives round the ring, 
and she stopped the coach in the middle to alight with 
majesty. It was our young man's sense that she was 
magnificently vulgar, but yet quite that this was n't 
all. It was n't with her vulgarity that she felt his want 
of means, though that might have helped her richly to 
embroider it ; nor was it with the same infirmity that 
she was strong original dangerous. 

His want of means of means sufficient for any 
one but himself was really the great ugliness, and 
was moreover at no time more ugly for him than when 
it rose there, as it did seem to rise, all shameless, face 
to face with the elements in Kate's life colloquially 
and conveniently classed by both of them as funny. 
He sometimes indeed, for that matter, asked himself 
if these elements were as funny as the innermost fact, 
so often vivid to him, of his own consciousness his 
private inability to believe he should ever be rich. His 
conviction on this head was in truth quite positive and 
a thing by itself; he failed, after analysis, to under 
stand it, though he had naturally more lights on it 



BOOK SECOND 

than any one else. He knew how it subsisted in spite 
of an equal consciousness of his being neither ment 
ally nor physically quite helpless, neither a dunce nor 
a cripple ; he knew it to be absolute, though secret, and 
also, strange to say, about common undertakings, not 
discouraging, not prohibitive. Only now was he hav 
ing to think if it were prohibitive in respect to mar 
riage ; only now, for the first time, had he to weigh his 
case in scales. The scales, as he sat with Kate, often 
dangled in the line of his vision ; he saw them, large 
and black, while he talked or listened, take, in the 
bright air, singular positions. Sometimes the right was 
down and sometimes the left; never a happy equi 
poise one or the other always kicking the beam. 
Thus was kept before him the question of whether it 
were more ignoble to ask a woman to take her chance 
with you, or to accept it from your conscience that her 
chance could be at the best but one of the degrees of 
privation ; whether too, otherwise, marrying for money 
might n't after all be a smaller cause of shame than 
the mere dread of marrying without. Through these 
variations of mood and view, nevertheless, the mark 
on his forehead stood clear; he saw himself remain 
without whether he married or not. It was a line on 
which his fancy could be admirably active; the in 
numerable ways of making money were beautifully 
present to him; he could have handled them for his 
newspaper as easily as he handled everything. He 
was quite aware how he handled everything; it was 
another mark on his forehead : the pair of smudges 
from the thumb of fortune, the brand on the passive 
fleece, dated from the primal hour and kept each other 

63 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

company. He wrote, as for print, with deplorable 
ease; since there had been nothing to stop him even at 
the age often, so there was as little at twenty; it was 
part of his fate in the first place and part of the 
wretched public's in the second. The innumerable 
ways of making money were, no doubt, at all events, 
what his imagination often was busy with after he had 
tilted his chair and thrown back his head with his 
hands clasped behind it. What would most have pro 
longed that attitude, moreover, was the reflexion that 
the ways were ways only for others. Within the 
minute now however this might be he was aware 
of a nearer view than he had yet quite had of those 
circumstances on his companion's part that made least 
for simplicity of relation. He saw above all how she 
saw them herself, for she spoke of them at present 
with the last frankness, telling him of her visit to her 
father and giving him, in an account of her subsequent 
scene with her sister, an instance of how she was 
perpetually reduced to patching-up, in one way or 
another, that unfortunate woman's hopes. 

"The tune," she exclaimed, "to which we're a 
failure as a family ! " With which he had it all again 
from her and this time, as it seemed to him, more 
than all : the dishonour her father had brought them, 
his folly and cruelty and wickedness; the wounded 
state of her mother, abandoned despoiled and help 
less, yet, for the management of such a home as 
remained to them, dreadfully unreasonable too; the 
extinction of her two young brothers one, at nine 
teen, the eldest of the house, by typhoid fever con 
tracted at a poisonous little place, as they had after- 



BOOK SECOND 

wards found out, that they had taken for a summer; 
the other, the flower of the flock, a middy on the 
Britannia, dreadfully drowned, and not even by an 
accident at sea, but by cramp, unrescued, while bath 
ing, too late in the autumn, in a wretched little river 
during a holiday visit to the home of a shipmate. Then 
Marian's unnatural marriage, in itself a kind of spirit 
less turning of the other cheek to fortune : her actual 
wretchedness and plaintiveness, her greasy children, 
her impossible claims, her odious visitors these 
things completed the proof of the heaviness, for them 
all, of the hand of fate. Kate confessedly described 
them with an excess of impatience; it was much of her 
charm for Densher that she gave in general that turn 
to her descriptions, partly as if to amuse him by free 
and humorous colour, partly and that charm was 
the greatest as if to work off, for her own relief, her 
constant perception of the incongruity of things. She 
had seen the general show too early and too sharply, 
and was so intelligent that she knew it and allowed for 
that misfortune ; therefore when, in talk with him, she 
was violent and almost unfeminine, it was quite as if 
they had settled, for intercourse, on the short cut of 
the fantastic and the happy language of exaggeration. 
It had come to be definite between them at a primary 
stage that, if they could have no other straight way, 
the realm of thought at least was open to them. They 
could think whatever they liked about whatever they 
would in other words they could say it. Saying it 
for each other, for each other alone, only of course 
added to the taste. The implication was thereby con 
stant that what they said when not together had no 

65 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

taste for them at all, and nothing could have served 
more to launch them, at special hours, on their small 
floating island than such an assumption that they 
were only making believe everywhere else. Our young 
man, it must be added, was conscious enough that it 
was Kate who profited most by this particular play of 
the fact of intimacy. It always struck him she had 
more life than he to react from, and when she re 
counted the dark disasters of her house and glanced at 
the hard odd offset of her present exaltation since 
as exaltation it was apparently to be considered he 
felt his own grey domestic annals make little show. It 
was naturally, in all such reference, the question of her 
father's character that engaged him most, but her pict 
ure of her adventure in Chirk Street gave him a sense 
of how little as yet that character was clear to him. 
What was it, to speak plainly, that Mr. Croy had 
originally done ? 

" I don't know and I don't want to. I only know 
that years and years ago when I was about fifteen 
something or other happened that made him im 
possible. I mean impossible for the world at large 
first, and then, little by little, for mother. We of 
course did n't know it at the time," Kate explained, 
" but we knew it later ; and it was, oddly enough, my 
sister who first made out that he had done something. 
I can hear her now the way, one cold black Sunday 
morning when, on account of an extraordinary fog, 
we had n't gone to church, she broke it to me by the 
school-room fire. I was reading a history-book by the 
lamp when we did n't go to church we had to read 
history-books and I suddenly heard her say, out of 

66 



BOOK SECOND 

the fog, which was in the room, and apropos of no 
thing: 'Papa has done something wicked/ And the 
curious thing was that I believed it on the spot and 
have believed it ever since, though she could tell me 
nothing more neither what was the wickedness, nor 
how she knew, nor what would happen to him, nor 
anything else about it. We had our sense always that 
all sorts of things had happened, were all the while 
happening, to him ; so that when Marian only said she 
was sure, tremendously sure, that she had made it out 
for herself, but that that was enough, I took her word 
for it it seemed somehow so natural. We were not, 
however, to ask mother which made it more natu 
ral still, and I said never a word. But mother, strangely 
enough, spoke of it to me, in time, of her own accord 
this was very much later on. He had n't been with 
us for ever so long, but we were used to that. She must 
have had some fear, some conviction that I had an 
idea, some idea of her own that it was the best thing to 
do. She came out as abruptly as Marian had done: 
' If you hear anything against your father anything 
I mean except that he 's odious and vile remember 
it 's perfectly false.' That was the way I knew it was 
true, though I recall my saying to her then that I of 
course knew it was n't. She might have told me it was 
true, and yet have trusted me to contradict fiercely 
enough any accusation of him that I should meet to 
contradict it much more fiercely and effectively, I 
think, than she would have done herself. As it hap 
pens, however," the girl went on, " I 've never had 
occasion, and I 've been conscious of it with a sort of 
surprise. It has made the world seem at times more 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

decent. No one has so much as breathed to me. That 
has been a part of the silence, the silence that sur 
rounds him, the silence that, for the world, has washed 
him out. He does n't exist for people. And yet I 'm 
as sure as ever. In fact, though I know no more than 
I did then, I 'm more sure. And that," she wound up, 
"is what I sit here and tell you about my own father. 
If you don't call it a proof of confidence I don't know 
what will satisfy you." 

"It satisfies me beautifully," Densher returned, 
" but it does n't, my dear child, very greatly enlighten 
me. You don't, you know, really tell me anything. 
It's so vague that what am I to think but that you 
may very well be mistaken ? What has he done, if no 
one can name it ?" 

"He has done everything." 

" Oh everything ! Everything 's nothing." 

"Well then," said Kate, "he has done some par 
ticular thing. It 's known only, thank God, not to 
us. But it has been the end of him. You could doubt 
less find out with a little trouble. You can ask about." 

Densher for a moment said nothing; but the next 
moment he made it up. " I would n't find out for the 
world, and I'd rather lose my tongue than put a 
question." 

"And yet it's a part of me," said Kate. 

"A part of you?" 

"My father's dishonour." Then she sounded for 
him, but more deeply than ever yet, her note of proud 
still pessimism. " How can such a thing as that not be 
the great thing in one's life ? " 

She had to take from him again, on this, one of his 
68 



BOOK SECOND 

long looks, and she took it to its deepest, its headiest 
dregs. "I shall ask you, for the great thing in your 
life," he said, "to depend on me a little more." After 
which, just debating, " Does n't he belong to some 
club ? " he asked. 

She had a grave headshake. "He used to to 
many." 

"But he has dropped them ?" 

"They've dropped him. Of that I'm sure. It 
ought to do for you. I offered him," the girl imme 
diately continued " and it was for that I went to 
him to come and be with him, make a home for 
him so far as is possible. But he won't hear of it." 

Densher took this in with marked but generous 
wonder. " You offered him ' impossible ' as you 
describe him to me to live with him and share his 
disadvantages ? " The young man saw for the mo 
ment only the high beauty of it. " You are gallant ! " 

" Because it strikes you as being brave for him ? " 
She wouldn't in the least have this. "It wasn't 
courage it was the opposite. I did it to save myself 
to escape." 

He had his air, so constant at this stage, as of her 
giving him finer things than any one to think about. 
"Escape from what ?" 

"From everything." 

" Do you by any chance mean from me ? " 

"No; I spoke to him of you, told him or what 
amounted to it that I would bring you, if he would 
allow it, with me." 

" But he won't allow it," said Densher. 

"Won't hear of it on any terms. He won't help me, 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

won't save me, won't hold out a finger to me," Kate 
went on. "He simply wriggles away, in his inimitable 
manner, and throws me back." 

"Back then, after all, thank goodness," Densher 
concurred, "on me." 

But she spoke again as with the sole vision of the 
whole scene she had evoked. "It's a pity, because 
you'd like him. He's wonderful he's charming." 
Her companion gave one of the laughs that showed 
again how inveterately he felt in her tone something 
that banished the talk of other women, so far as he 
knew other women, to the dull desert of the conven 
tional, and she had already continued. "He would 
make himself delightful to you." 

"Even while objecting to me ?" 

"Well, he likes to please," the girl explained 
"personally. I've seen it make him wonderful. He 
would appreciate you and be clever with you. It 's to 
me he objects that is as to my liking you." 

"Heaven be praised then," cried Densher, "that 
you like me enough for the objection ! " 

But she met it after an instant with some inconse 
quence. " I don't. I offered to give you up, if neces 
sary, to go to him. But it made no difference, and 
that 's what I mean," she pursued, " by his declining 
me on any terms. The point is, you see, that I don't 
escape." 

Densher wondered. " But if you did n't wish to 
escape me?" 

"I wished to escape Aunt Maud. But he insists 
that it 's through her and through her only that I may 
help him; just as Marian insists that it's through her, 

70 



BOOK SECOND 

and through her only, that I can help her. That's 
what I mean," she again explained, " by their turning 
me back." 

The young man thought. "Your sister turns you 
back too ? " 

"Oh with a push!" 

" But have you offered to live with your sister ? " 

" I would in a moment if she 'd have me. That 's 
all my virtue a narrow little family feeling. I 've a J 
small stupid piety I don't know what to call it." 
Kate bravely stuck to that; she made it out. "Some 
times, alone, I 've to smother my shrieks when I think 
of my poor mother. She went through things they 
pulled her down ; I know what they were now I 
did n't then, for I was a pig; and my position, com 
pared with hers, is an insolence of success. That's 
what Marian keeps before me ; that 's what papa him 
self, as I say, so inimitably does. My position's a 
value, a great value, for them both " she followed 
and followed. Lucid and ironic, she knew no merciful 
muddle. " It 's the value the only one they have/' 

Everything between our young couple moved to?- 
day, in spite of their pauses, their margin^, to a quicker 
measure the quickness and anxiety playing light 
ning-like in the sultriness. Densher watched, decid 
edly, as he had never done before. "And the fact you 
speak of holds you ! " 

"Of course it holds me. It's a perpetual sound in 
my ears. It makes me ask myself if I 've any right to 
personal happiness, any right to anything but to be as 
rich and overflowing, as smart and shining, as I can be 
made." 

71 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

Densher had a pause. "Oh you might by good luck 
have the personal happiness too." 

Her immediate answer to this was a silence like his 
own; after which she gave him straight in the face, 
but quite simply and quietly: "Darling!" 

It took him another moment ; then he was also quiet 
and simple. " Will you settle it by our being married 
to-morrow as we can, with perfect ease, civilly ? " 

"Let us wait to arrange it," Kate presently replied, 
"till after you've seen her." 

" Do you call that adoring me ? " Densher de 
manded. 

They were talking, for the time, with the strangest 
mixture of deliberation and directness, and nothing 
could have been more in the tone of it than the way 
she at last said : "You're afraid of her yourself." 

He gave rather a glazed smile. "For young persons 
of a great distinction and a very high spirit we 're a 
caution ! " 

"Yes," she took it straight up; "we're hideously 
intelligent. But there 's fun in it too. We must get our 
fun where we can. I think," she added, and for that 
matter not without courage, "our relation's quite 
beautiful. It 's not a bit vulgar. I cling to some saving 
romance in things." 

It made him break into a laugh that had more 
freedom than his smile. "How you must be afraid 
you'll chuck me!" 

"No, no, that would be vulgar. But of course," she 
admitted, "I do see my danger of doing something 
base." 

"Then what can be so base as sacrificing me?" 

72 



BOOK SECOND 

"I shan't sacrifice you. Don't cry out till you're 
hurt. I shall sacrifice nobody and nothing, and that 's 
just my situation, that I want and that I shall try for 
everything. That," she wound up, "is how I see my 
self (and how I see you quite as much) acting for 
them." 

"For 'them'?" and the young man extra 
vagantly marked his coldness. "Thank you!" 

" Don't you care for them ? " 

"Why should I ? What are they to me but a serious 
nuisance ?" 

As soon as he had permitted himself this qualifica 
tion of the unfortunate persons she so perversely 
cherished he repented of his roughness and partly 
because he expected a flash from her. But it was one 
of her finest sides that she sometimes flashed with a 
mere mild glow. " I don't see why you don't make out 
a little more that if we avoid stupidity we may do all. 
We may keep her." 

He stared. "Make her pension us ?" 

"Well, wait at least till we've seen." 

He thought. " Seen what can be got out of her ? " 

Kate for a moment said nothing. "After all I never 
asked her; never, when our troubles were at the worst, 
appealed to her nor went near her. She fixed upon me 
herself, settled on me with her wonderful gilded claws." 

"You speak," Densher observed, "as if she were a 
vulture." 

" Call it an eagle with a gilded beak as well, and 
with wings for great flights. If she 's a thing of the air, 
in short say at once a great seamed silk balloon I 
never myself got into her car. I was her choice." 

73 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

It had really, her sketch of the affair, a high colour 
and a great style; at all of which he gazed a minute 
as at a picture by a master. "What she must see in 
you!" 

"Wonders!" And, speaking it loud, she stood 
straight up. "Everything. There it is." 

Yes, there it was, and as she remained before him 
he continued to face it. "So that what you mean is 
that I 'm to do my part in somehow squaring her ? " 

"See her, see her," Kate said with impatience. 

"And grovel to her?" 

"Ah do what you like!" And she walked in her 
impatience away. 



II 



His eyes had followed her at this time quite long 
enough, before he overtook her, to make out more 
than ever in the poise of her head, the pride of her 
step he did n't know what best to call it a part 
at least of Mrs. Lowder's reasons. He consciously 
winced while he figured his presenting himself as a 
reason opposed to these ; though at the same moment, 
with the source of Aunt Maud's inspiration thus be 
fore him, he was prepared to conform, by almost any 
abject attitude or profitable compromise, to his com 
panion's easy injunction. He would do as she liked 
his own liking might come off as it would. He would 
help her to the utmost of his power ; for, all the rest of 
this day and the next, her easy injunction, tossed off 
that way as she turned her beautiful back, was like the 
crack of a great whip in the blue air, the high element 
in which Mrs. Lowder hung. He would n't grovel 
perhaps he was n't quite ready for that ; but he 
would be patient, ridiculous, reasonable, unreason 
able, and above all deeply diplomatic. He would be 
clever with all his cleverness which he now shook 
hard, as he sometimes shook his poor dear shabby 
old watch, to start it up again. It was n't, thank good 
ness, as if there were n't plenty of that "factor " (to use 
one of his great newspaper-words), and with what they 
could muster between them it would be little to the 
credit of their star, however pale, that defeat and sur 
render surrender so early, so immediate should 

75 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

have to ensue. It was not indeed that he thought of 
that disaster as at the worst a direct sacrifice of their 
possibilities : he imaged it which was enough as 
some proved vanity, some exposed fatuity in the 
idea of bringing Mrs. Lowder round. When shortly 
afterwards, in this lady's vast drawing-room the 
apartments at Lancaster Gate had struck him from 
the first as of prodigious extent he awaited her, at 
her request, conveyed in a "reply-paid" telegram, his 
theory was that of their still clinging to their idea, 
though with a sense of the difficulty of it really en 
larged to the scale of the place. 

He had the place for a long time it seemed to him 
a quarter of an hour to himself; and while Aunt 
Maud kept him and kept him, while observation and 
reflexion crowded on him, he asked himself what was 
to be expected of a person who could treat one like 
that. The visit, the hour were of her own proposing, 
so that her delay, no doubt, was but part of a general 
plan of putting him to inconvenience. As he walked 
to and fro, however, taking in the message of her mass 
ive florid furniture, the- immense expression of her 
signs and symbols, he had as little doubt of the incon 
venience he was prepared to suffer. He found himself 
even facing the thought that he had nothing to fall 
back on, and that that was as great an humiliation 
in a good cause as a proud man could desire. It had n't 
yet been so distinct to him that he made no show 
literally not the smallest; so complete a show seemed 
made there all about him; so almost abnormally affirm 
ative, so aggressively erect, were the huge heavy ob 
jects that syllabled his hostess's story. "When all's 



BOOK SECOND 

said and done, you know, she 's colossally vulgar " 
he had once all but noted that of her to her niece; only 
just keeping it back at the last, keeping it to himself 
with all its danger about it. It mattered because it 
bore so directly, and he at all events quite felt it a 
thing that Kate herself would some day bring out to 
him. It bore directly at present, and really all the 
more that somehow, strangely, it did n't in the least 
characterise the poor woman as dull or stale. She was 
vulgar with freshness, almost with beauty, since there 
was beauty, to a degree, in the play of so big and bold 
a temperament. She was in fine quite the largest pos 
sible quantity to deal with ; and he was in the cage of 
the lioness without his whip the whip, in a word, of 
a supply of proper retorts. He had no retort but that 
he loved the girl which in such a house as that was 
painfully cheap. Kate had mentioned to him more 
than once that her aunt was Passionate, speaking of it 
as a kind of offset and uttering it as with a capital P, 
marking it as something that he might, that he in fact 
ought to, turn about in some way to their advantage. 
He wondered at this hour to what advantage he could 
turn it; but the case grew less simple the longer he 
waited. Decidedly there was something he had n't 
enough of. 

His slow march to and fro seemed to give him the 
very measure; as he paced and paced the distance it 
became the desert of his poverty; at the sight of which 
expanse moreover he could pretend to himself as little 
as before that the desert looked redeemable. Lancas 
ter Gate looked rich that was all the effect ; which 
it was unthinkable that any state of his own should 

77 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

ever remotely resemble. He read more vividly, more 
critically, as has been hinted, the appearances about 
him; and they did nothing so much as make him won 
der at his aesthetic reaction. He had n't known 
and in spite of Kate's repeated reference to her own 
rebellions of taste that he should "mind " so much 
how an independent lady might decorate her house. 
It was the language of the house itself that spoke to 
him, writing out for him with surpassing breadth and 
freedom the associations and conceptions, the ideals 
and possibilities of the mistress. Never, he felt sure, 
had he seen so many things so unanimously ugly 
operatively, ominously so cruel. He was glad to have 
found this last name for the whole character; "cruel " 
somehow played into the subject for an article an 
article that his impression put straight into his mind. 
He would write about the heavy horrors that could 
still flourish, that lifted their undiminished heads, in 
an age so proud of its short way with false gods; and it 
would be funny if what he should have got from Mrs. 
Lowder were to prove after all but a small amount of 
copy. Yet the great thing, really the dark thing, was 
that, even while he thought of the quick column he 
might add up, he felt it less easy to laugh at the heavy 
horrors than to quail before them. He could n't de 
scribe and dismiss them collectively, call them either 
Mid- Victorian or Early not being certain they were 
rangeable under one rubric. It was only manifest 
they were splendid and were furthermore conclusively 
British. They constituted an order and abounded in 
rare material precious woods, metals, stuffs, stones. 
He had never dreamed of anything so fringed and 

78 






BOOK SECOND 

scalloped, so buttoned and corded, drawn everywhere 
so tight and curled everywhere so thick. He had never 
dreamed of so much gilt and glass, so much satin and 
plush, so much rosewood and marble and malachite. 
But it was above all the solid forms, the wasted finish, 
the misguided cost, the general attestation of morality 
and money, a good conscience and a big balance. 
These things finally represented for him a portentous 
negation of his own world of thought of which, for 
that matter, in presence of them, he became as for the 
first time hopelessly aware. They revealed it to him 
by their merciless difference. 

His interview with Aunt Maud, none the less, took 
by no means the turn he had expected. Passionate 
though her nature, no doubt, Mrs. Lowder on this oc 
casion neither threatened nor appealed. Her arms of 
aggression, her weapons of defence, were presumably 
close at hand, but she left them untouched and un- 
mentioned, and was in fact so bland that he properly 
perceived only afterwards how adroit she had been. 
He properly perceived something else as well, which 
complicated his case ; he should n't have known what 
to call it if he had n't called it her really imprudent 
good nature. Her blandness, in other words, was n't 
mere policy he was n't dangerous enough for 
policy: it was the result, he could see, of her fairly 
liking him a little. From the moment she did that she 
herself became more interesting, and who knew what 
might happen should he take to liking her? Well, it 
was a risk he naturally must face. She fought him at 
any rate but with one hand, with a few loose grains of 
stray powder. He recognised at the end of ten minutes, 

79 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

and even without her explaining it, that if she had 
made him wait it had n't been to wound him ; they 
had by that time almost directly met on the fact of her 
intention. She had wanted him to think for himself of 
what she proposed to say to him not having other 
wise announced it ; wanted to let it come home to him 
on the spot, as she had shrewdly believed it would. 
Her first question, on appearing, had practically been 
as to whether he had n't taken her hint, and this en 
quiry assumed so many things that it immediately 
made discussion frank and large. He knew, with the 
question put, that the hint was just what he had taken ; 
knew that she had made him quickly forgive her the 
display of her power ; knew that if he did n't take care 
he should understand her, and the strength of her pur 
pose, to say nothing of that of her imagination, no 
thing of the length of her purse, only too well. Yet he 
pulled himself up with the thought too that he was 
n't going to be afraid of understanding her ; he was 
just going to understand and understand without detri 
ment to the feeblest, even, of his passions. The play of 
one's mind gave one away, at the best, dreadfully, 'in 
action, in the need for action, where simplicity was all ; 
but when one could n't prevent it the thing was to 
make it complete. There would never be mistakes but 
for the original fun of mistakes. What he must use his 
fatal intelligence for was to resist. Mrs. Lowder 
meanwhile might use it for whatever she liked. 

It was after she had begun her statement of her own 
idea about Kate that he began on his side to reflect 
that with her manner of offering it as really sufficient 
if he would take the trouble to embrace it she 

80 



BOOK SECOND 

could n't half hate him. That was all, positively, she 
seemed to show herself for the time as attempting; 
clearly, if she did her intention justice she would have 
nothing more disagreeable to do. " If I had n't been 
ready to go very much further, you understand, I 
would n't have gone so far. I don't care what you re 
peat to her the more you repeat to her perhaps the 
better; and at any rate there's nothing she does n't al 
ready know. I don't say it for her ; I say it for you 
when I want to reach my niece I know how to do it 
straight." So Aunt Maud delivered herself as with 
homely benevolence, in the simplest but the clearest 
terms ; virtually conveying that, though a word to the 
wise was doubtless, in spite of the adage, not always 
enough, a word to the good could never fail to be. The 
sense our young man read into her words was that 
she liked him because he was good was really by 
her measure good enough : good enough that is to give 
up her niece for her and go his way in peace. But was 
he good enough by his own measure ? He fairly 
wondered, while she more fully expressed herself, if it 
might be his doom to prove so. " She 's the finest possi 
ble creature of course you flatter yourself you know 
it. But I know it quite as well as you possibly can 
by which I mean a good deal better yet; and the tune 
to which I 'm ready to prove my faith compares fav 
ourably enough, I think, with anything you can do. 
I don't say it because she 's my niece that 's nothing 
to me : I might have had fifty nieces, and I would n't 
have brought one of them to this place if I had n't 
found her to my taste. I don't say I would n't have 
done something else, but I would n't have put up with 

81 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

her presence. Kate's presence, by good fortune, I 
marked early. Kate's presence unluckily for you 

is everything I could possibly wish. Kate's pre 
sence is, in short, as fine as you know, and I 've been 
keeping it for the comfort of my declining years. I 've 
watched it long; I 've been saving it up and letting it, 
as you say of investments, appreciate; and you may 
judge whether, now it has begun to pay so, I 'm likely 
to consent to treat for it with any but a high bidder. I 
can do the best with her, and I 've my idea of the 
best." 

"Oh I quite conceive," said Densher, "that your 
idea of the best is n't me/' 

It was an oddity of Mrs. Lowder's that her face in 
speech was like a lighted window at night, but that 
silence immediately drew the curtain. The occasion 
for reply allowed by her silence was never easy to take, 
yet she was still less easy to interrupt. The great glaze 
of her surface, at all events, gave her visitor no present 
help. " I did n't ask you to come to hear what it is n't 

I asked you to come to hear what it is." 

"Of course," Densher laughed, "that's very great 
indeed." 

His hostess went on as if his contribution to the sub 
ject were barely relevant. "I want to see her high, 
high up high up and in the light." 

"Ah you naturally want to marry her to a duke and 
are eager to smooth away any hitch." 

She gave him so, on this, the mere effect of the 
drawn blind that it quite forced him at first into the 
sense, possibly just, of his having shown for flippant, 
perhaps even for low. He had been looked at so, in 

82 



BOOK SECOND 

blighted moments of presumptuous youth, by big cold 
public men, but never, so far as he could recall, by any 
private lady. More than anything yet it gave him the 
measure of his companion's subtlety, and thereby of 
Kate's possible career. "Don't be too impossible!" 
he feared from his friend, for a moment, some such 
answer as that ; and then felt, as she spoke otherwise, 
as if she were letting him off easily. " I want her to 
marry a great man." That was all; but, more and 
more, it was enough ; and if it had n't been her next 
words would have made it so. "And I think of her 
what I think. There you are." 

They sat for a little face to face upon it, and he was 
conscious of something deeper still, of something she 
wished him to understand if he only would. To that 
extent she did appeal appealed to the intelligence 
she desired to show she believed him to possess. He 
was meanwhile, at all events, not the man wholly to 
fail of comprehension. "Of course I'm aware how 
little I can answer to any fond proud dream. You 've 
a view a grand one ; into which I perfectly enter. 
I thoroughly understand what I'm not, and I'm 
much obliged to you for not reminding me of it in any 
rougher way." She said nothing she kept that up ; 
it might even have been to let him go further, if he 
was capable of it, in the way of poorness of spirit. It 
was one of those cases in which a man could n't show, 
if he showed at all, save for poor; unless indeed he 
preferred to show for asinine. It was the plain truth : 
he was on Mrs. Lowder's basis, the only one in 
question a very small quantity, and he did know, 
damnably, what made quantities large. He desired to 

83 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

be perfectly simple, yet in the midst of that effort a 
deeper apprehension throbbed. Aunt Maud clearly 
conveyed it, though he could n't later on have said 
how. "You don't really matter, I believe, so much as 
you think, and I 'm not going to make you a martyr 
by banishing you. Your performances with Kate in 
the Park are ridiculous so far as they 're meant as con 
sideration for me ; and I had much rather see you my 
self since you 're, in your way, my dear young man, 
delightful and arrange with you, count with you, 
as I easily, as I perfectly should. Do you suppose me 
so stupid as to quarrel with you if it 's not really neces 
sary ? It won't it would be too absurd ! be neces 
sary. I can bite your head off any day, any day I really 
open my mouth ; and I 'm dealing with you now, see 
and successfully judge without opening it. I do 
things handsomely all round I place you in the 
presence of the plan with which, from the moment it 's 
a case of taking you seriously, you 're incompatible. 
Come then as near it as you like, walk all round it 
don't be afraid you '11 hurt it ! and live on with 
it before you." 

He afterwards felt that if she had n't absolutely 
phrased all this it was because she so soon made him 
out as going with her far enough. He was so pleas 
antly affected by her asking no promise of him, her 
not proposing he should pay for her indulgence by his 
word of honour not to interfere, that he gave her a 
kind of general assurance of esteem. Immediately 
afterwards then he was to speak of these things to 
Kate, and what by that time came back to him first of 
all was the way he had said to her he mentioned it 



BOOK SECOND 

to the girl very much as one of a pair of lovers says 
in a rupture by mutual consent : " I hope immensely 
of course that you '11 always regard me as a friend." 
This had perhaps been going far he submitted it 
all to Kate; but really there had been so much in it 
that it was to be looked at, as they might say, wholly 
in its own light. Other things than those we have pre 
sented had come up before the close of his scene with 
Aunt Maud, but this matter of her not treating him as 
a peril of the first order easily predominated. There 
was moreover plenty to talk about on the occasion of 
his subsequent passage with our young woman, it 
having been put to him abruptly, the night before, 
that he might give himself a lift and do his newspaper 
a service so flatteringly was the case expressed 
by going for fifteen or twenty weeks to America. The 
idea of a series of letters from the United States from 
the strictly social point of view had for some time 
been nursed in the inner sanctuary at whose door he 
sat, and the moment was now deemed happy for 
letting it loose. The imprisoned thought had, in a 
word, on the opening of the door, flown straight out 
into Densher's face, or perched at least on his shoulder, 
making him look up in surprise from his mere inky 
office-table. His account of the matter to Kate was 
that he could n't refuse not being in a position as 
yet to refuse anything; but that his being chosen for 
such an errand confounded his sense of proportion. 
He was definite as to his scarce knowing how to meas 
ure the honour, which struck him as equivocal; he 
had n't quite supposed himself the man for the class 
of job. This confused consciousness, he intimated, 

85 - 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

he had promptly enough betrayed to his manager; 
with the effect, however, of seeing the question sur 
prisingly clear up. What it came to was that the sort 
of twaddle that was n't in his chords was, unex 
pectedly, just what they happened this time not to 
want. They wanted his letters, for queer reasons, 
about as good as he could let them come; he was to 
play his own little tune and not be afraid : that was the 
whole point. 

It would have been the whole, that is, had there 
not been a sharper one still in the circumstance that 
he was to start at once. His mission, as they called it 
at the office, would probably be over by the end of 
June, which was desirable; but to bring that about he 
must now not lose a week; his enquiries, he under 
stood, were to cover the whole ground, and there were 
reasons of state reasons operating at the seat of 
empire in Fleet Street why the nail should be 
struck on the head. Densher made no secret to Kate 
of his having asked for a day to decide; and his ac 
count of that matter was that he felt he owed it to her 
to speak to her first. She assured him on this that 
nothing so much as that scruple had yet shown her 
how they were bound together : she was clearly proud 
of his letting a thing of such importance depend on 
her, but she was clearer still as to his instant duty. 
She rejoiced in his prospect and urged him to his task; 
she should miss him too dreadfully of course she 
should miss him ; but she made so little of it that she 
spoke with jubilation of what he would see and would 
do. She made so much of this last quantity that he 
laughed at her innocence, though also with scarce the 

86 



BOOK SECOND 

heart to give her the real size of his drop in the daily 
bucket. He was struck at the same time with her 
happy grasp of what had really occurred in Fleet 
Street all the more that it was his own final reading. 
He was to pull the subject up that was just what 
they wanted; and it would take more than all the 
United States together, visit them each as he might, 
to let him down. It was just because he did n't nose 
about and babble, because he was n't the usual gossip- 
monger, that they had picked him out. It was a 
branch of their correspondence with which they evid 
ently wished a new tone associated, such a tone as, 
from now on, it would have always to take from his 
example. 

"How you ought indeed, when you understand so 
well, to be a journalist's wife!" Densher exclaimed 
in admiration even while she struck him as fairly 
hurrying him off. 

But she was almost impatient of the praise. "What 
do you expect one not to understand when one cares 
for you ? " 

"Ah then I '11 put it otherwise and say 'How much 
you care for me ! " 

"Yes," she assented; "it fairly redeems my stu 
pidity. I shall, with a chance to show it," she added, 
"have some imagination for you." 

She spoke of the future this time as so little con 
tingent that he felt a queerness of conscience in mak 
ing her the report that he presently arrived at on 
what had passed for him with the real arbiter of their 
destiny. The way for that had been blocked a little 
by his news from Fleet Street; but in the crucible of 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

their happy discussion this element soon melted into 
the other, and in the mixture that ensued the parts 
were not to be distinguished. The young man more 
over, before taking his leave, was to see why Kate had 
spoken with a wisdom indifferent to that, and was to 
come to the vision by a devious way that deepened the 
final cheer. Their faces were turned to the illumined 
quarter as soon as he had answered her question on 
the score of their being to appearance able to play 
patience, a prodigious game of patience, with success. 
It was for the possibility of the appearance that she 
had a few days before so earnestly pressed him to see 
her aunt ; and if after his hour with that lady it had 
not struck Densher that he had seen her to the happiest 
purpose the poor facts flushed with a better meaning 
as Kate, one by one, took them up. 

" If she consents to your coming why is n't that 
everything ? " 

"It is everything; everything she thinks it. It's 
the probability I mean as Mrs. Lowder measures 
probability that I may be prevented from becom 
ing a complication for her by some arrangement, any 
arrangement, through which you shall see me often 
and easily. She 's sure of my want of money, and that 
gives her time. She believes in my having a certain 
amount of delicacy, in my wishing to better my state 
before I put the pistol to your head in respect to shar 
ing it. The time this will take figures for her as the 
time that will help her if she does n't spoil her chance 
by treating me badly. She does n't at all wish more 
over," Densher went on, "to treat me badly, for I be 
lieve, upon my honour, odd as it may sound to you, 

88 



BOOK SECOND 

that she personally rather likes me and that if you 
were n't in question I might almost become her pet 
young man. She does n't disparage intellect and 
culture quite the contrary ; she wants them to 
adorn her board and be associated with her name; 
and I'm sure it has sometimes cost her a real pang 
that I should be so desirable, at once, and so impos 
sible." He paused a moment, and his companion then 
saw how strange a smile was in his face a smile as 
strange even as the adjunct in her own of this in 
forming vision. "I quite suspect her of believing 
that, if the truth were known, she likes me literally 
better than deep down you yourself do : where 
fore she does me the honour to think I may be safely 
left to kill my own cause. There, as I say, comes in 
her margin. I 'm not the sort of stuff of romance that 
wears, that washes, that survives use, that resists 
familiarity. Once in any degree admit that, and your 
pride and prejudice will take care of the rest ! the 
pride fed full, meanwhile, by the system she means to 
practise with you, and the prejudice excited by the 
comparisons she '11 enable you to make, from which I 
shall come off badly. She likes me, but she '11 never 
like me so much as when she has succeeded a little 
better in making me look wretched. For then you 'II 
like me less." t 

Kate showed for this evocation a due interest, but 
no alarm ; and it was a little as if to pay his tender 
cynicism back in kind that she after an instant re 
plied : " I see, I see what an immense affair she 
must think me ! One was aware, but you deepen the 
impression." 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

"I think you'll make no mistake," said Densher, 
"in letting it go as deep as it will." 

He had given her indeed, she made no scruple of 
showing, plenty to amuse herself with. "Her facing 
the music, her making you boldly as welcome as you 
say that 's an awfully big theory, you know, and 
worthy of all the other big things that in one's ac 
quaintance with people give her a place so apart." 

"Oh she's grand," the young man allowed; 
"she's on the scale altogether of the car of Jugger 
naut which was a kind of image that came to me 
yesterday while I waited for her at Lancaster Gate. 
The things in your drawing-room there were like the 
forms of the strange idols, the mystic excrescences, 
with which one may suppose the front of the car to 
bristle." 

"Yes, aren't they?" the girl returned; and they 
had, over all that aspect of their wonderful lady, one 
of those deep and free interchanges that made every 
thing but confidence a false note for them. There 
were complications, there were questions; but they 
were so much more together than they were anything 
else. Kate uttered for a while no word of refutation of 
Aunt Maud's "big" diplomacy, and they left it there, 
as they would have left any other fine product, for a 
monument to her powers. But, Densher related fur 
ther, he had had in other respects too the car of Jug 
gernaut to face; he omitted nothing from his accoun 
of his visit, least of all the way Aunt Maud had frankl 
at last though indeed only under artful pressure - 
fallen foul of his very type, his want of the right mark; 
his foreign accidents, his queer antecedents. She ha 

90 



BOOK SECOND 

told him he was but half a Briton, which, he granted 
Kate, would have been dreadful if he had n't so let 
himself in for it. 

"I was really curious, you see," he explained, "to 
find out from her what sort of queer creature, what 
sort of social anomaly, in the light of such conventions 
as hers, such an education as mine makes one pass 
for." 

Kate said nothing for a little; but then, "Why 
should you care?" she asked. 

"Oh," he laughed, "I like her so much; and then, 
for a man of my trade, her views, her spirit, are es 
sentially a thing to get hold of: they belong to the 
great public mind that we meet at every turn and that 
we must keep setting up 'codes' with. Besides," he 
added, "I want to please her personally." 

"Ah yes, we must please her personally ! " his com 
panion echoed ; and the words may represent all their 
Definite recognition, at the time, of Densher's politic 
gain. They had in fact between this and his start for 
New York many matters to handle, and the question 
he now touched upon came up for Kate above all. 
She looked at him as if he had really told her aunt 
more of his immediate personal story than he had 
ever told herself. This, if it had been so, was an ac 
cident, and it perched him there with her for half an 
hour, like a cicerone and his victim on a tower-top, 
before as much of the bird's-eye view of his early 
years abroad, his migratory parents, his Swiss schools, 
his German university, as she had easy attention for. 
A man, he intimated, a man of their world, would 
have spotted him straight as to many of these points; 

91 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

a man of their world, so far as they had a world, would 
have been through the English mill. But it was none 
the less charming to make his confession to a woman ; 
women had in fact for such differences blessedly 
more imagination and blessedly more sympathy. 
Kate showed at present as much of both as his case 
could require; when she had had it from beginning to 
end she declared that she now made out more than 
ever yet what she loved him for. She had herself, as a 
child, lived with some continuity in the world across 
the Channel, coming home again still a child; and 
had participated after that, in her teens, in her 
mother's brief but repeated retreats to Dresden, to 
Florence, to Biarritz, weak and expensive attempts at 
economy from which there stuck to her though in 
general coldly expressed, through the instinctive 
avoidance of cheap raptures the religion of foreign 
things. When it was revealed to her how many more 
foreign things were in Merton Densher than he had 
hitherto taken the trouble to catalogue, she almost 
faced him as if he were a map of the continent or a 
handsome present of a delightful new "Murray." 
He had n't meant to swagger, he had rather meant to 
plead, though with Mrs. Lowder he had meant also 
a little to explain. His father had been, in strange 
countries, in twenty settlements of the English, British 
chaplain, resident or occasional, and had had for 
years the unusual luck of never wanting a billet. His 
career abroad had therefore been unbroken, and as 
his stipend had never been great he had educated his 
children, at the smallest cost, in the schools nearest; 
which was also a saving of railway-fares. Densher 's 

92 



BOOK SECOND 

mother, it further appeared, had practised on her side 
a distinguished industry, to the success of which 
so far as success ever crowned it this period of exile 
had much contributed : she copied, patient lady, fam 
ous pictures in great museums, having begun with a 
happy natural gift and taking in betimes the scale of 
her opportunity. Copyists abroad of course swarmed, 
but Mrs. Densher had had a sense and a hand of her 
own, had arrived at a perfection that persuaded, that 
even deceived, and that made the " placing " of her 
work blissfully usual. Her son, who had lost her, held 
her image sacred, and the effect of his telling Kate all 
about her, as well as about other matters until then 
mixed and dim, was to render his history rich, his 
sources full, his outline anything but common. He 
had come round, he had come back, he insisted 
abundantly, to being a Briton : his Cambridge years, 
his happy connexion, as it had proved, with his father's 
college, amply certified to that, to say nothing of his 
subsequent plunge into London, which filled up the 
measure. But brave enough though his descent to 
English earth, he had passed, by the way, through 
zones of air that had left their ruffle on his wings 
he had been exposed to initiations indelible. Som - 
thing had happened to him that could never be ui - 
done. 

When Kate Croy said to him as much he besought 
her not to insist, declaring that this indeed was what 
was gravely the matter with him, that he had been 
but too probably spoiled for native, for insular use. 
On which, not unnaturally, she insisted the more, as 
suring him, without mitigation, that if he was various 

93 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

and complicated, complicated by wit and taste, she 
would n't for the world have had him more helpless ; 
so that he was driven in the end to accuse her of put 
ting the dreadful truth to him in the hollow guise of 
flattery. She was making him out as all abnormal 
in order that she might eventually find him impos 
sible, and since she could make it out but with his aid 
she had to bribe him by feigned delight to help her. 
If her last word for him in the connexion was that the 
way he saw himself was just a precious proof the more 
of his having tasted of the tree and being thereby pre 
pared to assist her to eat, this gives the happy tone of 
their whole talk, the measure of the flight of time in 
the near presence of his settled departure. Kate 
showed, however, that she was to be more literally 
taken when she spoke of the relief Aunt Maud would 
draw from the prospect of his absence. 

"Yet one can scarcely see why," he replied, "when 
she fears me so little." 

His friend weighed his objection. "Your idea is 
that she likes you so much that she '11 even go so far 
as to regret losing you ? " 

Well, he saw it in their constant comprehensive 
way. "Since what she builds on is the gradual process 
of your alienation, she may take the view that the pro 
cess constantly requires me. Must n't I be there to 
keep it going ? It's in my exile that it may languish." 

He went on with that fantasy, but at this point 
Kate ceased to attend. He saw after a little that she 
had been following some thought of her own, and he 
had been feeling the growth of something determinant 
even through the extravagance of much of the pleas- 

94 



BOOK SECOND 

antry, the warm transparent irony, into which their 
livelier intimacy kept plunging like a confident swim 
mer. Suddenly she said to him with extraordinary 
beauty : " I engage myself to you for ever." 

The beauty was in everything, and he could have 
separated nothing could n't have thought of her 
face as distinct from the whole joy. Yet her face had 
a new light. "And I pledge you I call God to wit 
ness ! every spark of my faith ; I give you every 
drop of my life." That was all, for the moment, but 
it was enough, and it was almost as quiet as if it were 
nothing. They were in the open air, in an alley of the 
Gardens ; the great space, which seemed to arch just 
then higher and spread wider for them, threw them 
back into deep concentration. They moved by a com 
mon instinct to a spot, within sight, that struck them 
as fairly sequestered, and there, before their time to 
gether was spent, they had extorted from concentra 
tion every advance it could make them. They had 
exchanged vows and tokens, sealed their rich compact, 
solemnised, so far as breathed words and murmured 
sounds and lighted eyes and clasped hands could do 
it, their agreement to belong only, and to belong 
tremendously, to each other. They were to leave the 
place accordingly an affianced couple, but before they 
left it other things still had passed. Densher had de 
clared his horror of bringing to a premature end her 
happy relation with her aunt; and they had worked 
round together to a high level of discretion. Kate's 
free profession was that she wished not to deprive him 
of Mrs. Lowder's countenance, which in the long run 
she was convinced he would continue to enjoy; and 

95 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

as by a blest turn Aunt Maud had demanded of him 
no promise that would tie his hands they should be 
able to propitiate their star in their own way and yet 
remain loyal. One difficulty alone stood out, which 
Densher named. 

"Of course it will never do we must remember 
that from the moment you allow her to found 
hopes of you for any one else in particular. So long as 
her view is content to remain as general as at present 
appears I don't see that we deceive her. At a given 
hour, you see, she must be undeceived : the only thing 
therefore is to be ready for the hour and to face it. 
Only, after all, in that case," the young man observed, 
"one does n't quite make out what we shall have got 
from her." 

"What she'll have got from us?" Kate put it with 
a smile. "What she'll have got from us," the girl 
went on, "is her own affair it's for her to measure. 
I asked her for nothing," she added; "I never put 
myself upon her. She must take her risks, and she 
surely understands them. What we shall have got 
from her is what we've already spoken of," Kate 
further explained; "it's that we shall have gained 
time. And so, for that matter, will she." 

Densher gazed a little at all this clearness ; his gaze 
was not at the present hour into romantic obscurity. 
"Yes; no doubt, in our particular situation, time's 
everything. And then there 's the joy of it." 

She hesitated. "Of our secret ?" 

"Not so much perhaps of our secret in itself, but of 
what's represented and, as we must somehow feel, 
secured to us and made deeper and closer by it." And 



BOOK SECOND 

his fine face, relaxed into happiness, covered her with 
all his meaning. "Our being as we are." 

It was as if for a moment she let the meaning sink 
into her. " So gone ? " 

"So gone. So extremely gone. However," he 
smiled, "we shall go a good deal further." Her an 
swer to which was only the softness of her silence 
a silence that looked out for them both at the far 
reach of their prospect. This was immense, and they 
thus took final possession of it. They were practically 
united and splendidly strong; but there were other 
things things they were precisely strong enough to 
be able successfully to count with and safely to allow 
for; in consequence of which they would for the pre 
sent, subject to some better reason, keep their under 
standing to themselves. It was not indeed however 
till after one more observation of Densher's that they 
felt the question completely straightened out. "The 
only thing of course is that she may any day abso 
lutely put it to you." 

Kate considered. "Ask me where, on my honour, 
we are? She may, naturally; but I doubt if in fact 
she will. While you 're away she '11 make the most of 
that drop of the tension. She'll leave me alone." 

"But there'll be my letters." 

The girl faced his letters. "Very, very many ?" 

"Very, very, very many more than ever; and 
you know what that is ! And then," Densher added, 
"there'll be yours." 

"Oh I shan't leave mine on the hall-table. I shall 
post them myself." 

He looked at her a moment. " Do you think then 
97 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

I had best address you elsewhere ? " After which, be 
fore she could quite answer, he added with some em 
phasis : " I 'd rather not, you know. It 's straighter." 

She might again have just waited. "Of course it's 
straighter. Don't be afraid I shan't be straight. 
Address me," she continued, "where you like. I shall 
be proud enough of its being known you write to me." 

He turned it over for the last clearness. "Even at 
the risk of its really bringing down the inquisition ? " 

Well, the last clearness now filled her. " I 'm not 
afraid of the inquisition. If she asks if there 's any 
thing definite between us I know perfectly what I 
shall say." 

"That I am of course 'gone* for you ?" 

"That I love you as I shall never in my life love 
any one else, and that she can make what she likes of 
that." She said it out so splendidly that it was like a 
new profession of faith, the fulness of a tide breaking 
through; and the effect of that in turn was to make 
her companion meet her with such eyes that she had 
time again before he could otherwise speak. "Be 
sides, she's just as likely to ask you." 

"Not while I'm away." 

"Then when you come back." 

"Well then," said Densher, "we shall have had our 
particular joy. But what I feel is," he candidly added, 
"that, by an idea of her own, her superior policy, she 
won't ask me. She J ll let me off. I shan't have to lie 
to her." 

"It will be left all to me ?" asked Kate. 

"All to you!" he tenderly laughed. 

But it was oddly, the very next moment, as if he had 



BOOK SECOND 



perhaps been a shade too candid. His discrimination 
seemed to mark a possible, a natural reality, a reality 
not wholly disallowed by the account the girl had just 
given of her own intention. There was a difference in 
the air even if none other than the supposedly 
usual difference in truth between man and woman; 
and it was almost as if the sense of this provoked her. 
She seemed to cast about an instant, and then she 
went back a little resentfully to something she had 
suffered to pass a minute before. She appeared to 
take up rather more seriously than she need the joke 
about her freedom to deceive. Yet she did this too in 
a beautiful way. "Men are too stupid even you. 
You did n't understand just now why, if I post my 
letters myself, it won't be for anything so vulgar as to 
hide them." 

"Oh you named it for the pleasure." 
"Yes; but you did n't, you don't, understand what 
the pleasure may be. There are refinements ! " 
she more patiently dropped. " I mean of conscious 
ness, of sensation, of appreciation," she went on. 
"No," she sadly insisted "men don't know. They 
know in such matters almost nothing but what women 
show them." 

This was one of the speeches, frequent in her, that, 
liberally, joyfully, intensely adopted and, in itself, as 
might be, embraced, drew him again as close to her, 
and held him as long, as their conditions permitted. 
"Then that's exactly why we've such an abysmal 
need of you ! " 



BOOK THIRD 



I 



THE two ladies who, in advance of the Swiss season, 
had been warned that their design was unconsidered, 
that the passes would n't be clear, nor the air mild, 
nor the inns open the two ladies who, characteristic 
ally, had braved a good deal of possibly interested 
remonstrance were rinding themselves, as their ad 
venture turned out, wonderfully sustained. It was the 
judgement of the head-waiters and other functionaries 
on the Italian lakes that approved itself now as in 
terested ; they themselves had been conscious of im 
patiences, of bolder dreams at least the younger 
had; so that one of the things they made out together 
making out as they did an endless variety was 
that in those operatic palaces of the Villa d'Este, of 
Cadenabbia, of Pallanza and Stresa, lone women, 
however re-enforced by a travelling-library of instruct 
ive volumes, were apt to be beguiled and undone. 
Their flights of fancy moreover had been modest; 
they had for instance risked nothing vital in hoping to 
make their way by the Briinig. They were making it 
in fact happily enough as we meet them, and were 
only wishing that, for the wondrous beauty of the early 
high-climbing spring, it might have been longer and 
the places to pause and rest more numerous. 

Such at least had been the intimated attitude of 
Mrs. Stringham, the elder of the companions, who 
had her own view of the impatiences of the younger, 

103 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

to which, however, she offered an opposition but of 
the most circuitous. She moved, the admirable Mrs. 
Stringham, in a fine cloud of observation and suspic 
ion ; she was in the position, as she believed, of know 
ing much more about Milly Theale than Milly herself 
knew, and yet of having to darken her knowledge as 
well as make it active. The woman in the world least 
formed by nature, as she was quite aware, for duplic 
ities and labyrinths, she found herself dedicated to 
personal subtlety by a new set of circumstances, above 
all by a new personal relation; had now in fact to 
recognise that an education in the occult she could 
scarce say what to call it had begun for her the day 
she left New York with Mildred. She had come on 
from Boston for that purpose; had seen little of the 
girl or rather had seen her but briefly, for Mrs. 
Stringham, when she saw anything at all, saw much, 
saw everything before accepting her proposal; and 
had accordingly placed herself, by her act, in a boat 
that she more and more estimated as, humanly speak 
ing, of the biggest, though likewise, no doubt, in many 
ways, by reason of its size, of the safest. In Boston, 
the winter before, the young lady in whom we are in 
terested had, on the spot, deeply, yet almost tacitly, 
appealed to her, dropped into her mind the shy con 
ceit of some assistance, some devotion to render. Mrs. 
Stringham's little life had often been visited by shy 
conceits secret dreams that had fluttered their hour 
between its narrow walls without, for any great part, 
so much as mustering courage to look out of its rather 
dim windows. But this imagination the fancy of a 
possible link with the remarkable young thing from 

104 



BOOK THIRD 

New York bad mustered courage: had perched, 
on the instant, at the clearest lookout it could find, 
and might be said to have remained there till, only a 
few months later, it had caught, in surprise and joy, 
the unmistakeable flash of a signal. 

Milly Theale had Boston friends, such as they were, 
and of recent making; and it was understood that her 
visit to them a visit that was not to be meagre 
had been undertaken, after a series of bereavements, 
in the interest of the particular peace that New York 
could n't give. It was recognised, liberally enough, 
that there were many things perhaps even too 
many New York could give; but this was felt to 
make no difference in the important truth that what 
you had most to do, under the discipline of life, or of 
death, was really to feel your situation as grave. Bos 
ton could help you to that as nothing else could, and 
it had extended to Milly, by every presumption, some 
such measure of assistance. Mrs. Stringham was never 
to forget for the moment had not faded, nor the 
infinitely fine vibration it set up in any degree ceased 
her own first sight of the striking apparition, then 
unheralded and unexplained : the slim, constantly pale, 
delicately haggard, anomalously, agreeably angular 
young person, of not more than two-and-twenty sum 
mers, in spite of her marks, whose hair was somehow 
exceptionally red even for the real thing, which it in 
nocently confessed to being, and whose clothes were 
remarkably black even for robes of mourning, which 
was the meaning they expressed. It was New York 
mourning, it was New York hair, it was a New York 
history, confused as yet, but multitudinous, of the loss 

105 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

of parents, brothers, sisters, almost every human ap 
pendage, all on a scale and with a sweep that had re 
quired the greater stage ; it was a New York legend 
of affecting, of romantic isolation, and, beyond every 
thing, it was by most accounts, in respect to the mass 
of money so piled on the girl's back, a set of New York 
possibilities. She was alone, she was stricken, she was 
rich, and in particular was strange a combination 
in itself of a nature to engage Mrs. Stringham's at 
tention. But it was the strangeness that most deter 
mined our good lady's sympathy, convinced as she 
had to be that it was greater than any one else any 
one but the sole Susan Stringham supposed. 
Susan privately settled it that Boston was not in the 
least seeing her, was only occupied with her seeing 
Boston, and that any assumed affinity between the 
two characters was delusive and vain. She was seeing 
her, and she had quite the finest moment of her life 
in now obeying the instinct to conceal the vision. 
She could n't explain it no one would understand. 
They would say clever Boston things Mrs. String- 
ham was from Burlington Vermont, which she boldly 
upheld as the real heart of New England, Boston be 
ing "too far south" but they would only darken 
counsel. 

There could be no better proof (than this quick 
intellectual split) of the impression made on our 
friend, who shone herself, she was well aware, with 
but the reflected light of the admirable city. She too 
had had her discipline, but it had not made her strik 
ing; it had been prosaically usual, though doubtless a 
decent dose; and had only made her usual to match it 

1 06 



BOOK THIRD 

usual, that is, as Boston went. She had lost first 
her husband and then her mother, with whom, on her 
husband's death, she had lived again; so that now, 
childless, she was but more sharply single than be 
fore. Yet she sat rather coldly light, having, as she 
called it, enough to live on so far, that is, as she 
lived by bread alone : how little indeed she was regu 
larly content with that diet appeared from the name 
she had made Susan Shepherd Stringham as a 
contributor to the best magazines. She wrote short 
stories, and she fondly believed she had her "note," 
the art of showing New England without showing it 
wholly in the kitchen. She had not herself been 
brought up in the kitchen ; she knew others who had 
not; and to speak for them had thus become with her 
a literary mission. To be in truth literary had ever 
been her dearest thought, the thought that kept her 
bright little nippers perpetually in position. There 
were masters, models, celebrities, mainly foreign, 
whom she finally accounted so and in whose light she 
ingeniously laboured ; there were others whom, how 
ever chattered about, she ranked with the inane, for 
she bristled with discriminations; but all categories 
failed her they ceased at least to signify as soon 
as she found herself in presence of the real thing, the 
romantic life itself. That was what she saw in Mil 
dred what positively made her hand a while trem 
ble too much for the pen. She had had, it seemed to 
her, a revelation such as even New England refined 
and grammatical could n't give; and, all made up as 
she was of small neat memories and ingenuities, little 
industries and ambitions, mixed with something 

107 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

moral, personal, that was still more intensely respons 
ive, she felt her new friend would have done her an 
ill turn if their friendship should n't develop, and yet 
that nothing would be left of anything else if it should. 
It was for the surrender of everything else that she 
was, however, quite prepared, and while she went 
about her usual Boston business with her usual Bos 
ton probity she was really all the while holding her 
self. She wore her "handsome" felt hat, so Tyrolese, 
yet somehow, though feathered from the eagle's wing, 
so truly domestic, with the same straightness and 
security; she attached her fur boa with the same 
honest precautions; she preserved her balance on the 
ice-slopes with the same practised skill; she opened, 
each evening, her Transcript with the same inter 
fusion of suspense and resignation ; she attended her 
almost daily concert with the same expenditure of 
patience and the same economy of passion ; she flitted 
in and out of the Public Library with the air of con 
scientiously returning or bravely carrying off in her 
pocket the key of knowledge itself; and finally it 
was what she most did she watched the thin trickle 
of a fictive "love-interest" through that somewhat 
serpentine channel, in the magazines, which she 
mainly managed to keep clear for it. But the real 
thing all the while was elsewhere; the real thing had 
gone back to New York, leaving behind it the two 
unsolved questions, quite distinct, of why it was real, 
and whether she should ever be so near it again. 

For the figure to which these questions attached 
themselves she had found a convenient description 
she thought of it for herself always as that of a girl 

108 



BOOK THIRD 

with a background. The great reality was in the fact 
that, very soon, after but two or three meetings, the 
girl with the background, the girl with the crown of 
old gold and the mourning that was not as the mourn 
ing of Boston, but at once more rebellious in its gloom 
and more frivolous in its frills, had told her she had 
never seen any one like her. They had met thus as 
opposed curiosities, and that simple remark of Milly's 
if simple it was became the most important 
thing that had ever happened to her; it deprived the 
love-interest, for the time, of actuality and even of 
pertinence; it moved her first, in short, in a high de 
gree, to gratitude, and then to no small compassion. 
Yet in respect to this relation at least it was what did 
prove the key of knowledge ; it lighted up as nothing 
else could do the poor young woman's history. That 
the potential heiress of all the ages should never have 
seen any one like a mere typical subscriber, after all, 
to the Transcript was a truth that in especial 
as announced with modesty, with humility, with re 
gret described a situation. It laid upon the elder 
woman, as to the void to be filled, a weight of respons 
ibility; but in particular it led her to ask whom poor 
Mildred bad then seen, and what range of contacts it 
had taken to produce such queer surprises. That was 
really the enquiry that had ended by clearing the air : 
the key of knowledge was felt to click in the lock from 
the moment it flashed upon Mrs. Stringham that her 
friend had been starved for culture. Culture was 
what she herself represented for her, and it was living 
up to that principle that would surely prove the great 
business. She knew, the clever lady, what the princi- 

109 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

pie itself represented, and the limits of her own store ; 
and a certain alarm would have grown upon her if 
something else had n't grown faster. This was, fortun 
ately for her and we give it in her own words 
the sense of a harrowing pathos. That, primarily, 
was what appealed to her, what seemed to open the 
door of romance for her still wider than any, than a 
still more reckless, connexion with the "picture- 
papers." For such was essentially the point: it was 
rich, romantic, abysmal, to have, as was evident, 
thousands and thousands a year, to have youth and 
intelligence and, if not beauty, at least in equal meas 
ure a high dim charming ambiguous oddity, which 
was even better, and then on top of all to enjoy bound 
less freedom, the freedom of the wind in the desert 
it was unspeakably touching to be so equipped and 
yet to have been reduced by fortune to little humble- 
minded mistakes. 

It brought our friend's imagination back again to 
New York, where aberrations were so possible in the 
intellectual sphere, and it in fact caused a visit she 
presently paid there to overflow with interest. As 
Milly had beautifully invited her, so she would hold 
out if she could against the strain of so much confid 
ence in her mind; and the remarkable thing was 
that even at the end of three weeks she had held out. 
But by this time her mind had grown comparatively 
bold and free; it was dealing with new quantities, a 
different proportion altogether and that had made 
for refreshment: she had accordingly gone home in 
convenient possession of her subject. New York was 
vast, New York was startling, with strange histories, 

no 



BOOK THIRD 

with wild cosmopolite backward generations that ac 
counted for anything; and to have got nearer the lux 
uriant tribe of which the rare creature was the final 
flower, the immense extravagant unregulated cluster, 
with free-living ancestors, handsome dead cousins, 
lurid uncles, beautiful vanished aunts, persons all 
busts and curls, preserved, though so exposed, in the 
marble of famous French chisels all this, to say 
nothing of the effect of closer growths of the stem, 
was to have had one's small world-space both crowded 
and enlarged. Our couple had at all events effected 
an exchange; the elder friend had been as con 
sciously intellectual as possible, and the younger, 
abounding in personal revelation, had been as uncon 
sciously distinguished. This was poetry it was also 
history Mrs. Stringham thought, to a finer tune 
even than Maeterlinck and Pater, than Marbot and 
Gregorovius. She appointed occasions for the reading 
of these authors with her hostess, rather perhaps than 
actually achieved great spans ; but what they managed 
and what they missed speedily sank for her into the 
dim depths of the merely relative, so quickly, so 
strongly had she clutched her central clue. All her 
scruples and hesitations, all her anxious enthusiasms, 
had reduced themselves to a single alarm the fear 
that she really might act on her companion clumsily 
and coarsely. She was positively afraid of what she 
might do to her, and to avoid that, to avoid it with 
piety and passion, to do, rather, nothing at all, to 
leave her untouched because no touch one could ap 
ply, however light, however just, however earnest and 
anxious, would be half good enough, would be any- 

iii 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

thing but an ugly smutch upon perfection this 
now imposed itself as a consistent, an inspiring 
thought. 

Less than a month after the event that had so de 
termined Mrs. Stringham's attitude close upon the 
heels, that is, of her return from New York she 
was reached by a proposal that brought up for her the 
kind of question her delicacy might have to contend 
with. Would she start for Europe with her young 
friend at the earliest possible date, and should she be 
willing to do so without making conditions ? The 
enquiry was launched by wire; explanations, in suf 
ficiency, were promised; extreme urgency was sug 
gested and a general surrender invited. It was to the 
honour of her sincerity that she made the surrender 
on the spot, though it was not perhaps altogether to 
that of her logic. She had wanted, very consciously, 
from the first, to give something up for her new ac 
quaintance, but she had now no doubt that she was 
practically giving up all. What settled this was the 
fulness of a particular impression, the impression that 
had throughput more and more supported her and 
which she would have uttered so far as she might by 
saying that the charm of the creature was positively in 
the creature's greatness. She would have been con 
tent so to leave it; unless indeed she had said, more 
familiarly, that Mildred was the biggest impression 
of her life. That was at all events the biggest account 
of her, and none but a big clearly would do. Her situ 
ation, as such things were called, was on the grand 
scale; but it still was not that. It was her nature, once 
for all a nature that reminded Mrs. Stringham of 

112 



BOOK THIRD 

the term always used in the newspapers about the 
great new steamers, the inordinate number of "feet of 
water" they drew; so that if, in your little boat, you 
had chosen to hover and approach, you had but your 
self to thank, when once motion was started, for the 
way the draught pulled you. * Milly drew the feet of 
water, and odd though it might seem that a lonely 
girl, who was not robust and who hated sound and 
show, should/stir the stream like a leviathan, her com 
panion floated off with the sense of rocking violently 
at her side.-* More than prepared, however, for that 
excitement, Mrs. Stringham mainly failed of ease in 
respect to her own consistency. To attach herself for 
an indefinite time seemed a roundabout way of hold 
ing her hands off. If she wished to be sure of neither 
touching nor smutching, the straighter plan would 
doubtless have been not to keep her friend within 
reach. This in fact she fully recognised, and with it 
the degree to which she desired that the girl should 
lead her life, a life certain to be so much finer than 
that of anybody else. The difficulty, however, by 
good fortune, cleared away as soon as she had further 
recognised, as she was speedily able to do, that she 
Susan Shepherd the name with which Milly for 
the most part amused herself was not anybody 
else. She had renounced that character; she had now 
no life to lead ; and she honestly believed that she was 
thus supremely equipped for leading Milly's own. 
No other person whatever, she was sure, had to an 
equal degree this qualification, and it was really to 
assert it that she fondly embarked. 
Many things, though not in many weeks, had come 

"3 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

and gone since then, and one of the best of them 
doubtless had been the voyage itself, by the happy 
southern course, to the succession of Mediterranean 
ports, with the dazzled wind-up at Naples. Two or 
three others had preceded this; incidents, indeed 
rather lively marks, of their last fortnight at home, 
and one of which had determined on Mrs. Stringham 's 
part a rush to New York, forty-eight breathless hours 
there, previous to her final rally. But the great sus 
tained sea-light had drunk up the rest of the picture, 
so that for many days other questions and other possi 
bilities sounded with as little effect as a trio of penny 
whistles might sound in a Wagner overture. It was 
the Wagner overture that practically prevailed, up 
through Italy, where Milly had already been, still 
further up and across the Alps, which were also partly 
known to Mrs. Stringham; only perhaps "taken" to 
a time not wholly congruous, hurried in fact on ac 
count of the girl's high restlessness. She had been 
expected, she had frankly promised, to be restless 
that was partly why she was "great" or was a 
consequence, at any rate, if not a cause; yet she had 
not perhaps altogether announced herself as straining 
so hard at the cord. It was familiar, it was beautiful 
to Mrs. Stringham that she had arrears to make up, 
the chances that had lapsed for her through the wan 
ton ways of forefathers fond of Paris, but not of its 
higher sides, and fond almost of nothing else ; but the 
vagueness, the openness, the eagerness without point 
and the interest without pause all a part of the 
charm of her oddity as at first presented had be 
come more striking in proportion as they triumphed 

114 



BOOK THIRD 

over movement and change. She had arts and idiosyn 
crasies of which no great account could have been 
given, but which were a daily grace if you lived with 
them; such as the art of being almost tragically im 
patient and yet making it as light as air; of being in 
explicably sad and yet making it as clear as noon ; of 
being unmistakeably gay and yet making it as soft as 
dusk. Mrs. Stringham by this time understood every 
thing, was more than ever confirmed in wonder and 
admiration, in her view that it was life enough simply 
to feel her companion's feelings ; but there were special 
keys she had not yet added to her bunch, impressions 
that of a sudden were apt to affect her as new. 

This particular day on the great Swiss road had 
been, for some reason, full of them, and they referred 
themselves, provisionally, to some deeper depth than 
she had touched though into two or three such 
depths, it must be added, she had peeped long enough 
to find herself suddenly draw back. It was not Milly's 
unpacified state, in short, that now troubled her 
though certainly, as Europe was the great American 
sedative, the failure was to some extent to be noted : 
it was the suspected presence of something behind 
the state which, however, could scarcely have 
taken its place there since their departure. What a 
fresh motive of unrest could suddenly have sprung 
from was in short not to be divined. It was but half 
an explanation to say that excitement, for each of 
them, had naturally dropped, and that what they had 
left behind, or tried to the great serious facts of 
life, as Mrs. Stringham liked to call them was once 
more coming into sight as objects loom through 

"5 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

smoke when smoke begins to clear; for these were 
general appearances from which the girl's own aspect, 
her really larger vagueness, seemed rather to discon 
nect itself. The nearest approach to a personal anxi 
ety indulged in as yet by the elder lady was on her 
taking occasion to wonder if what she had more than 
anything else got hold of might n't be one of the finer, 
one of the finest, one of the rarest as she called it so 
that she might call it nothing worse cases of Ameri 
can intensity. She had just had a moment of alarm 
asked herself if her young friend were merely going 
to treat her to some complicated drama of nerves. At 
the end of a week, however, with their further pro 
gress, her young friend had effectively answered the 
question and given her the impression, indistinct in 
deed as yet, of something that had a reality compared 
with which the nervous explanation would have been 
coarse. Mrs. Stringham found herself from that hour, 
in other words, in presence of an explanation that re 
mained a muffled and intangible form, but that as 
suredly, should it take on sharpness, would explain 
everything and more than everything, would become 
instantly the light in which Milly was to be read. 

Such a matter as this may at all events speak of the 
style in which our young woman could affect those 
who were near her, may testify to the sort of interest 
she could inspire. She worked and seemingly quite 
without design upon the sympathy, the curiosity, 
the fancy of her associates, and we shall really our 
selves scarce otherwise come closer to her than by 
feeling their impression and sharing, if need be, their 
confusion. She reduced them, Mrs. Stringham would 

116 



BOOK THIRD 

have said, to a consenting bewilderment; which was 
precisely, for that good lady, on a last analysis, what 
was most in harmony with her greatness. She ex 
ceeded, escaped measure, was surprising only because 
they were so far from great. Thus it was that on this 
wondrous day by the Briinig the spell of watching her 
had grown more than ever irresistible; a proof of what 
or of a part of what Mrs. Stringham had, with 
all the rest, been reduced to. She had almost the 
sense of tracking her young friend as if at a given mo 
ment to pounce. She knew she should n't pounce, 
she had n't come out to pounce; yet she felt her atten 
tion secretive, all the same, and her observation scien 
tific. She struck herself as hovering like a spy, apply 
ing tests, laying traps, concealing signs. This would 
last, however, only till she should fairly know what 
was the matter; and to watch was after all, mean 
while, a way of clinging to the girl, not less than an 
occupation, a satisfaction in itself. The pleasure of 
watching moreover, if a reason were needed, came 
from a sense of her beauty. Her beauty had n't at all 
originally seemed a part of the situation, and Mrs. 
Stringham had even in the first flush of friendship not 
named it grossly to any one; having seen early that for 
stupid people and who, she sometimes secretly 
asked herself, was n't stupid ? it would take a great 
deal of explaining. She had learned not to mention it 
till it was mentioned first which occasionally hap 
pened, but not too often; and then she was there in 
force. Then she both warmed to the perception that 
met her own perception, and disputed it, suspiciously, 
as to special items; while, in general, she had learned 

117 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

to refine even to the point of herself employing the 
word that most people employed. She employed it to 
pretend she was also stupid and so have done with the 
matter; spoke of her friend as plain, as ugly even, in 
a case of especially dense insistence; but as, in appear 
ance, so "awfully full of things." This was her own 
way of describing a face that, thanks doubtless to 
rather too much forehead, too much nose and too 
much mouth, together with too little mere conven 
tional colour and conventional line, was expressive, 
irregular, exquisite, both for speech and for silence. 
When Milly smiled it was a public event when she 
did n't it was a chapter of history. They had stopped 
on the Briinig for luncheon, and there had come up 
for them under the charm of the place the question of 
a longer stay. 

Mrs. Stringham was now on the ground of thrilled 
recognitions, small sharp echoes of a past which she 
kept in a well-thumbed case, but which, on pressure 
of a spring and exposure to the air, still showed itself 
ticking as hard as an honest old watch. The em 
balmed "Europe" of her younger time had partly 
stood for three years of Switzerland, a term of continu 
ous school at Vevey, with rewards of merit in the 
form of silver medals tied by blue ribbons and mild 
mountain-passes attacked with alpenstocks. It was 
the good girls who, in the holidays, were taken highest, 
and our friend could now judge, from what she sup 
posed her familiarity with the minor peaks, that she 
had been one of the best. These reminiscences, sacred 
to-day because prepared in the hushed chambers of 
the past, had been part of the general train laid for 

118 



BOOK THIRD 

the pair of sisters, daughters early fatherless, by their 
brave Vermont mother, who struck her at present as 
having apparently, almost like Columbus, worked out, 
all unassisted, a conception of the other side of the 
globe. She had focussed Vevey, by the light of nature 
and with extraordinary completeness, at Burlington; 
after which she had embarked, sailed, landed, ex 
plored and, above all, made good her presence. She 
had given her daughters the five years in Switzerland 
and Germany that were to leave them ever afterwards 
a standard of comparison for all cycles of Cathay, and 
to stamp the younger in especial Susan was the 
younger with a character, that, as Mrs. Stringham 
had often had occasion, through life, to say to herself, 
made all the difference. It made all the difference for 
Mrs. Stringham, over and over again and in the most 
remote connexions, that, thanks to her parent's lonely 
thrifty hardy faith, she was a woman of the world. 
There were plenty of women who were all sorts of 
things that she was n't, but who, on the other hand, 
were not that, and who did n't know she was (which 
she liked it relegated them still further) and did n't 
know either how it enabled her to judge them. She 
had never seen herself so much in this light as during 
the actual phase of her associated, if slightly un 
directed, pilgrimage; and the consciousness gave per 
haps to her plea for a pause more intensity than she 
knew. The irrecoverable days had come back to her 
from far off; they were part of the sense of the cool 
upper air and of everything else that hung like an in 
destructible scent to the torn garment of youth the 
taste of honey and the luxury of milk, the sound of 

119 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

cattle-bells and the rush of streams, the fragrance of 
trodden balms and the dizziness of deep gorges. 

Milly clearly felt these things too, but they affected 
her companion at moments that was quite the way 
Mrs. Stringham would have expressed it as the 
princess in a conventional tragedy might have affected 
the confidant if a personal emotion had ever been per 
mitted to the latter. That a princess could only be a 
princess was a truth with which, essentially, a confid 
ant, however responsive, had to live. Mrs. String- 
ham was a woman of the world, but Milly Theale 
was a princess, the only one she had yet had to deal 
with, and this, in its way too, made all the difference. 
It was a perfectly definite doom for the wearer it 
was for every one else an office nobly filled. It might 
have represented possibly, with its involved loneli 
ness and other mysteries, the weight under which she 
fancied her companion's admirable head occasionally, 
and ever so submissively, bowed. Milly had quite 
assented at luncheon to their staying over, and had 
left her to look at rooms, settle questions, arrange 
about their keeping on their carriage and horses; 
cares that had now moreover fallen to Mrs. String- 
ham as a matter of course and that yet for some rea 
son, on this occasion particularly, brought home to 
her all agreeably, richly, almost grandly what 
it was to live with the great. Her young friend had in 
a, sublime degree a sense closed to the general ques 
tion of difficulty, which she got rid of furthermore 
not in the least as one had seen many charming per 
sons do, by merely passing it on to others. She kept it 
completely at a distance: it never entered the circle; 

120 



BOOK THIRD 

the most plaintive confidant could n't have dragged 
it in; and to tread the path of a confidant was accord 
ingly to live exempt. Service was in other words so 
easy to render that the whole thing was like court life 
without the hardships. It came back of course to the 
question of money, and our observant lady had by 
this time repeatedly reflected that if one were talking 
of the "difference," it was just this, this incompar 
ably and nothing else, that when all was said and 
done most made it. A less vulgarly, a less obviously 
purchasing or parading person she could n't have 
imagined; but it prevailed even as the truth of truths 
that the girl could n't get away from her wealth. She 
might leave her conscientious companion as freely 
alone with it as possible and never ask a question, 
scarce even tolerate a reference ; but it was in the fine 
folds of the helplessly expensive little black frock 
that she drew over the grass as she now strolled 
vaguely off; it was in the curious and splendid coils of 
hair, "done" with no eye whatever to the mode du 
jour, that peeped from under the corresponding in 
difference of her hat, the merely personal tradition 
that suggested a sort of noble inelegance; it lurked 
between the leaves of the uncut but antiquated Tauch- 
nitz volume of which, before going out, she had 
mechanically possessed herself. She could n't dress it 
away, nor walk it away, nor read it away, nor think 
it away; she could neither smile it away in any dreamy 
absence nor blow it away in any softened sigh. She 
could n't have lost it if she had tried that was 
what it was to be really rich. It had to be the thing 
you were. When at the end of an hour she had n't 

121 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

returned to the house Mrs. Stringham, though the 
bright afternoon was yet young, took, with precau 
tions, the same direction, went to join her in case of 
her caring for a walk. But the purpose of joining her 
was in truth less distinct than that of a due regard 
for a possibly preferred detachment: so that, once 
more, the good lady proceeded with a quietness that 
made her slightly "underhand " even in her own eyes. 
She could n't help that, however, and she did n't care, 
sure as she was that what she really wanted was n't 
to overstep but to stop in time. It was to be able to 
stop in time that she went softly, but she had on this 
occasion further to go than ever yet, for she followed 
in vain, and at last with some anxiety, the footpath 
she believed Milly to have taken. It wound up a hill 
side and into the higher Alpine meadows in which, 
all these last days, they had so often wanted, as they 
passed above or below, to stray; and then it obscured 
itself in a wood, but always going up, up, and with a 
small cluster of brown old high-perched chalets evid 
ently for its goal. Mrs. Stringham reached in due 
course the chalets, and there received from a bewild 
ered old woman, a very fearful person to behold, an 
indication that sufficiently guided her. The young 
lady had been seen not long before passing further on, 
over a crest and to a place where the way would drop 
again, as our unappeased enquirer found it in fact, a 
quarter of an hour later, markedly and almost alarm 
ingly to do. It led somewhere, yet apparently quite 
into space, for the great side of the mountain ap 
peared, from where she pulled up, to fall away alto 
gether, though probably but to some issue below and 

122 



BOOK THIRD 

out of sight. Her uncertainty moreover was brief, for 
she next became aware of the presence on a fragment 
of rock, twenty yards off, of the Tauchnitz volume 
the girl had brought out and that therefore pointed 
to her shortly previous passage. She had rid herself 
of the book, which was an encumbrance, and meant 
of course to pick it up on her return; but as she 
had n't yet picked it up what on earth had become of 
her ? Mrs. Stringham, I hasten to add, was within a 
few moments to see ; but it was quite an accident that 
she had n't, before they were over, betrayed by her 
deeper agitation the fact of her own nearness. 

The whole place, with the descent of the path and 
as a sequel to a sharp turn that was masked by rocks 
and shrubs, appeared to fall precipitously and to 
become a "view" pure and simple, a view of great 
extent and beauty, but thrown forward and vertigin- 
ous. Milly, with the promise of it from just above, 
had gone straight down to it, not stopping till it was 
all before her; and here, on what struck her friend as 
the dizzy edge of it, she was seated at her ease. The 
path somehow took care of itself and its final business, 
but the girl's seat was a slab of rock at the end of a 
short promontory or excrescence that merely pointed 
off to the right at gulfs of air and that was so placed 
by good fortune, if not by the worst, as to be at last 
completely visible. For Mrs. Stringham stifled a cry 
on taking in what she believed to be the danger of 
such a perch for a mere maiden ; her liability to slip, to 
slide, to leap, to be precipitated by a single false move 
ment, by a turn of the head how could one tell ? 
into whatever was beneath. A thousand thoughts, 

123 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

for the minute, roared in the poor lady's ears, but 
without reaching, as happened, Milly's. It was a 
commotion that left our observer intensely still and 
holding her breath. What had first been offered her 
was the possibility of a latent intention however 
wild the idea in such a posture; of some betrayed 
accordance of Milly's caprice with a horrible hidden 
obsession. But since Mrs. Stringham stood as mo 
tionless as if a sound, a syllable, must have produced 
the start that would be fatal, so even the lapse of a 
few seconds had partly a reassuring effect. It gave her 
time to receive the impression which, when she some 
minutes later softly retraced her steps, was to be the 
sharpest she carried away. [This was the impression 
that if the girl was deeply and recklessly meditating 
there she was n't meditating a jump; she was on the 
contrary, as she sat, much more in a state of uplifted 
and unlimited possession that had nothing to gain 
from violence. She was looking down on the king 
doms of the earth, and though indeed that of itself 
might well go to the brain, it would n't be with a view 
of renouncing them. Was she choosing among them 
or did she want them all f This question, before Mrs. 
Stringham had decided what to do, made others vain; 
in accordance with which she saw, or believed she did, 
that if it might be dangerous to call out, to sound in 
any way a surprise, it would probably be safe enough 
to withdraw as she had come. She watched a while 
longer, she held her breath, and she never knew after 
wards what time had elapsed. 

Not many minutes probably, yet they had n't 
seemed few, and they had given her so much to think 

124 



BOOK THIRD 

of, not only while creeping home, but while waiting 
afterwards at the inn, that she was still busy with 
them when, late in the afternoon, Milly reappeared. 
She had stopped at the point of the path where the 
Tauchnitz lay, had taken it up and, with the pencil 
attached to her watch-guard, had scrawled a word 
a bientot ! across the cover; after which, even 
under the girl's continued delay, she had measured 
time without a return of alarm. For she now saw that 
the great thing she had brought away was precisely 
a conviction that the future was n't to exist for her 
princess in the form of any sharp or simple release 
from the human predicament. It would n't be for 
her a question of a flying leap and thereby of a quick 
escape. It would be a question of taking full in the 
face the whole^assault of life, to the general muster of 
which indeed her face might have been directly pre 
sented as she sat there on her rock. Mrs. Stringham 
was thus able to say to herself during still another 
wait of some length that if her young friend still con 
tinued absent it would n't be because whatever 
the opportunity she had cut short the thread. She 
would n't have committed suicide ; she knew herself 
unmistakeably reserved for some more complicated 
passage; this was the very vision in which she had, 
with no little awe, been discovered. The image that 
thus remained with the elder lady kept the character 
of a revelation. During the breathless minutes of her 
watch she had seen her companion afresh; the latter's 
type, aspect, marks, her history, her state, her beauty, 
her mystery, all unconsciously betrayed themselves 
to the Alpine air, and all had been gathered in again 

125 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

to feed Mrs. Stringham's flame. They are things that 
will more distinctly appear for us, and they are mean 
while briefly represented by the enthusiasm that was 
stronger on our friend's part than any doubt. It was 
a consciousness she was scarce yet used to carrying, 
but she had as beneath her feet a mine of something 
precious. She seemed to herself to stand near the 
mouth, not yet quite cleared. The mine but needed 
working and would certainly yield a treasure. She 
was n't thinking, either, of Milly's gold. 



II 



THE girl said nothing, when they met, about the 
words scrawled on the Tauchnitz, and Mrs. String- 
ham then noticed that she had n't the book with her. 
She had left it lying and probably would never re 
member it at all. Her comrade's decision was there 
fore quickly made not to speak of having followed 
her; and within five minutes of her return, wonder 
fully enough, the preoccupation denoted by her for- 
getfulness further declared itself. "Should you think 
me quite abominable if I were to say that after 
all ?" 

Mrs. Stringham had already thought, with the first 
sound of the question, everything she was capable of 
thinking, and had immediately made such a sign that 
Milly's words gave place to visible relief at her assent. 
"You don't care for our stop here you 'd rather go 
straight on ? We '11 start then with the peep of to 
morrow's dawn or as early as you like; it's only 
rather late now to take the road again." And she 
smiled to show how she meant it for a joke that an 
instant onward rush was what the girl would have 
wished. "I bullied you into stopping," she added; 
"so it serves me right." 

Milly made in general the most of her good friend's 
jokes; but she humoured this one a little absently. 
"Oh yes, you do bully me." And it was thus ar 
ranged between them, with no discussion at all, that 

127 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

they would resume their journey in the morning. The 
younger tourist's interest in the detail of the matter 
in spite of a declaration from the elder that she would 
consent to be dragged anywhere appeared almost 
immediately afterwards quite to lose itself; she pro 
mised, however, to think till supper of where, with the 
world all before them, they might go supper hav 
ing been ordered for such time as permitted of lighted 
candles. It had been agreed between them that light 
ed candles at wayside inns, in strange countries, amid 
mountain scenery, gave the evening meal a peculiar 
poetry such being the mild adventures, the refine 
ments of impression, that they, as they would have 
said, went in for. It was now as if, before this repast, 
Milly had designed to "lie down"; but at the end of 
three minutes more she was n't lying down, she was 
saying instead, abruptly, with a transition that was 
like a jump of four thousand miles: "What was it 
that, in New York, on the ninth, when you saw him 
alone, Doctor Finch said to you ? " 

It was not till later that Mrs. Stringham fully knew 
why the question had startled her still more than its 
suddenness explained; though the effect of it even at 
the moment was almost to frighten her into a false 
answer. She had to think, to remember the occasion, 
the "ninth," in New York, the time she had seen Doc 
tor Finch alone, and to recall the words he had then 
uttered; and when everything had come back it was 
quite, at first, for a moment, as if he had said some 
thing that immensely mattered. He had n't, however, 
in fact; it was only as if he might perhaps after all 
have been going to. It was on the sixth within ten 

128 



BOOK THIRD 

days of their sailing that she had hurried from 
Boston under the alarm, a small but a sufficient shock, 
of hearing that Mildred had suddenly been taken ill, 
had had, from some obscure cause, such an upset as 
threatened to stay their journey. The bearing of the 
accident had happily soon presented itself as slight, 
and there had been in the event but a few hours of 
anxiety; the journey had been pronounced again not 
only possible, but, as representing "change," highly 
advisable ; and if the zealous guest had had five min 
utes by herself with the Doctor this was clearly no 
more at his instance than at her own. Almost nothing 
had passed between them but an easy exchange of 
enthusiasms in respect to the remedial properties 
of "Europe"; and due assurance, as the facts came 
back to her, she was now able to give. "Nothing 
whatever, on my word of honour, that you may n't 
know or might n't then have known. I 've no secret 
with him about you. What makes you suspect it ? I 
don't quite make out how you know I did see him 
alone." 

"No you never told me," said Milly. "And I 
don't mean," she went on, "during the twenty-four 
hours while I was bad, when your putting your heads 
together was natural enough. I mean after I was 
better the last thing before you went home." 

Mrs. Stringham continued to wonder. "Who told 
you I saw him then ? " 

"He didn't himself nor did you write me it 
afterwards. We speak of it now for the first time. 
That's exactly why!" Milly declared with some 
thing in her face and voice that, the next moment, 

129 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

betrayed for her companion that she had really known 
nothing, had only conjectured and, chancing her 
charge, made a hit. Yet why had her mind been busy 
with the question ? " But if you 're not, as you now 
assure me, in his confidence," she smiled, "it's no 
matter." 

"I'm not in his confidence he had nothing to 
confide. But are you feeling unwell ? " 

The elder woman was earnest for the truth, though 
the possibility she named was not at all the one that 
seemed to fit witness the long climb Milly had just 
indulged in. The girl showed her constant white face, 
but this her friends had all learned to discount, and it 
was often brightest when superficially not bravest. 
She continued for a little mysteriously to smile. "I 
don't know have n't really the least idea. But it 
might be well to find out." 

Mrs. Stringham at this flared into sympathy. "Are 
you in trouble in pain ? " 

"Not the least little bit. But I sometimes won 
der!" 

"Yes " she pressed : "wonder what ? " 

"Well, if I shall have much of it." 

Mrs. Stringham stared. "Much of what? Not of 
pain?" 

"Of everything. Of everything I have." 

Anxiously again, tenderly, our friend cast about. 
"You 'have' everything; so that when you say 
' much 'of it " 

"I only mean," the girl broke in, "shall I have it 
for long ? That is if I have got it." 

She had at present the effect, a little, of confound- 
130 



BOOK THIRD 

ing, or at least of perplexing her comrade, who was 
touched, who was always touched, by something 
helpless in her grace and abrupt in her turns, and yet 
actually half made out in her a sort of mocking light. 
" If you 've got an ailment ? " 

"If I've got everything," Milly laughed. 

"Ah that like almost nobody else." 

"Then for how long ?" 

Mrs. Stringham's eyes entreated her; she had gone 
close to her, half-enclosed her with urgent arms. " Do 
you want to see some one ? " And then as the girl 
only met it with a slow headshake, though looking 
perhaps a shade more conscious: "We'll go straight 
to the best near doctor." This too, however, produced 
but a gaze of qualified assent and a silence, sweet and 
vague, that left everything open. Our friend de 
cidedly lost herself. "Tell me, for God's sake, if 
you're in distress." 

"I don't think I've really everything" Milly said 
as if to explain and as if also to put it pleasantly. 

" But what on earth can I do for you ? " 

The girl debated, then seemed on the point of being 
able to say; but suddenly changed and expressed 
herself otherwise. " Dear, dear thing I 'm only too 
happy!" 

It brought them closer, but it rather confirmed Mrs. 
Stringham's doubt. "Then what's the matter?" 

"That's the matter that I can scarcely bear it." 

" But what is it you think you have n't got ? " 

Milly waited another moment ; then she found it, 
and found for it a dim show of joy. "The power to 
resist the bliss of what I have /" 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

Mrs. Stringham took it in her sense of being 
"put off" with it, the possible, probable irony of it 
and her tenderness renewed itself in the positive grim- 
ness of a long murmur. "Whom will you see ?" 
for it was as if they looked down from their height at 
a continent of doctors. "Where will you first go?" 

Milly had for the third time her air of considera 
tion ; but she came back with it to her plea of some 
minutes before. " I '11 tell you at supper good-bye 
till then." And she left the room with a lightness that 
testified for her companion to something that again 
particularly pleased her in the renewed promise of 
motion. The odd passage just concluded, Mrs. 
Stringham mused as she once more sat alone with a 
hooked needle and a ball of silk, the " fine " work with 
which she was always provided this mystifying 
mood had simply been precipitated, no doubt, by 
their prolonged halt, with which the girl had n't really 
been in sympathy. One had only to admit that her 
complaint was in fact but the excess of the joy of life, 
and everything did then fit. She could n't stop for the 
joy, but she could go on for it, and with the pulse of 
her going on she floated again, was restored to her 
great spaces. There was no evasion of any truth so 
at least Susan Shepherd hoped in one's sitting 
there while the twilight deepened and feeling still 
more finely that the position of this young lady was 
magnificent. The evening at that height had naturally 
turned to cold, and the travellers had bespoken a fire 
with their meal; the great Alpine road asserted its 
brave presence through the small panes of the low 
clean windows, with incidents at the inn-door, the 

132 



BOOK THIRD 

yellow diligence, the great waggons, the hurrying 
hooded private conveyances, reminders, for our fanci 
ful friend, of old stories, old pictures, historic flights, 
escapes, pursuits, things that had happened, things 
indeed that by a sort of strange congruity helped her 
to read the meanings of the greatest interest into the 
relation in which she was now so deeply involved. It 
was natural that this record of the magnificence of her 
companion's position should strike her as after all the 
best meaning she could extract ; for she herself was 
seated in the magnificence as in a court-carriage 
she came back to that, and such a method of progres 
sion, such a view from crimson cushions, would evid 
ently have a great deal more to give. By the time the 
candles were lighted for supper and the short white 
curtains drawn Milly had reappeared, and the little 
scenic room had then all its romance. That charm 
moreover was far from broken by the words in which 
she, without further loss of time, satisfied her patient 
mate. "I want to go straight to London." 

It was unexpected, corresponding with no view 
positively taken at their departure; when England 
had appeared, on the contrary, rather relegated and 
postponed seen for the moment, as who should 
say, at the end of an avenue of preparations and in 
troductions. London, in short, might have been sup 
posed to be the crown, and to be achieved, like a 
siege, by gradual approaches. Milly's actual fine 
stride was therefore the more exciting, as any simpli 
fication almost always was to Mrs. Stringham ; who, 
besides, was afterwards to recall as a piece of that 
very "exposition" dear to the dramatist the terms in 

133 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

which, between their smoky candles, the girl had put 
her preference and in which still other things had 
come up, come while the clank of waggon-chains in 
the sharp air reached their ears, with the stamp of 
hoofs, the rattle of buckets and the foreign questions, 
foreign answers, that were all alike a part of the cheery 
converse of the road. The girl brought it out in truth 
as she might have brought a huge confession, some 
thing she admitted herself shy about and that would 
seem to show her as frivolous; it had rolled over her 
that what she wanted of Europe was " people," so far 
as they were to be had, and that, if her friend really 
wished to know, the vision of this same equivocal 
quantity was what had haunted her during their pre 
vious days, in museums and churches, and what was 
again spoiling for her the pure taste of scenery. She 
was all for scenery yes; but she wanted it human 
and personal,- and all she could say was that there 
would be in London would n't there ? more of 
that kind than anywhere else. She came back to her 
idea that if it was n't for long if nothing should 
happen to be so for her why the particular thing 
she spoke of would probably have most to give her in 
the time, would probably be less than anything else a 
waste of her remainder. She produced this last con 
sideration indeed with such gaiety that Mrs. String- 
ham was not again disconcerted by it, was in fact 
quite ready if talk of early dying was in order to 
match it from her own future. Good, then; they 
would eat and drink because of what might happen 
to-morrow; and they would direct their course from 
that moment with a view to such eating and drinking. 

134 



BOOK THIRD 

They ate and drank that night, in truth, as in the 
spirit of this decision ; whereby the air, before they 
separated, felt itself the clearer. 

It had cleared perhaps to a view only too extensive 
extensive, that is, in proportion to the signs of life 
presented. The idea of "people" was not so enter 
tained on Milly's part as to connect itself with particu 
lar persons, and the fact remained for each of the 
ladies that they would, completely unknown, disem 
bark at Dover amid the completely unknowing. They 
had no relation already formed ; this plea Mrs. String- 
ham put forward to see what it would produce. It 
produced nothing at first but the observation on the 
girl's side that what she had in mind was no thought 
of society nor of scraping acquaintance; nothing was 
further from her than to desire the opportunities re 
presented for the compatriot in general by a trunkful 
of "letters." It was n't a question, in short, of the 
people the compatriot was after; it was the human, 
the English picture itself, as they might see it in their 
own way the concrete world inferred so fondly 
from what one had read and dreamed. Mrs. String- 
ham did every justice to this concrete world, but when 
later on an occasion chanced to present itself she 
made a point of not omitting to remark that it might 
be a comfort to know in advance one or two of the 
human particles of its concretion. This still, however, 
failed, in vulgar parlance, to "fetch" Milly, so that 
she had presently to go all the way. "Haven't I 
understood from you, for that matter, that you gave 
Mr. Densher something of a promise ? " 

There was a moment, on this, when Milly's look 

135 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

had to be taken as representing one of two things 
either that she was completely vague about the pro 
mise or that Mr. Densher's name itself started no train. 
But she really could n't be so vague about the promise, 
the partner of these hours quickly saw, without at 
taching it to something; it had to be a promise to 
somebody in particular to be so repudiated. In the 
event, accordingly, she acknowledged Mr. Merton 
Densher, the so unusually "bright" young English 
man who had made his appearance in New York on 
some special literary business was n't it ? shortly 
before their departure, and who had been three or 
four times in her house during the brief period be 
tween her visit to Boston and her companion's subse 
quent stay with her; but she required much remind 
ing before it came back to her that she had mentioned 
to this companion just afterwards the confidence ex 
pressed by the personage in question in her never do 
ing so dire a thing as to come to London without, as 
the phrase was, looking a fellow up. She had left him 
the enjoyment of his confidence, the form of which 
might have appeared a trifle free this she now re 
asserted ; she had done nothing either to impair or to 
enhance it; but she had also left Mrs. Stringham, in 
the connexion and at the time, rather sorry to have 
missed Mr. Densher. She had thought of him again 
after that, the elder woman ; she had likewise gone so 
far as to notice that Milly appeared not to have done 
so which the girl might easily have betrayed ; and, 
interested as she was in everything that concerned 
her, she had made out for herself, for herself only and 
rather idly, that, but for interruptions, the young 

136 



BOOK THIRD 

Englishman might have become a better acquaint 
ance. His being an acquaintance at all was one of the 
signs that in the first days had helped to place Milly, 
as a young person with the world before her, for 
sympathy and wonder. Isolated, unmothered, un 
guarded, but with her other strong marks, her big 
house, her big fortune, her big freedom, she had lately 
begun to "receive," for all her few years, as an older 
woman might have done as was done, precisely, by 
princesses who had public considerations to observe 
and who came of age very early. If it was thus dis 
tinct to Mrs. Stringham then that Mr. Densher had 
gone off somewhere else in connexion with his errand 
before her visit to New York, it had been also not un- 
discoverable that he had come back for a day or two 
later on, that is after her own second excursion - 
that he had in fine reappeared on a single occasion on 
his way to the West : his way from Washington as she 
believed, though he was out of sight at the time of her 
joining her friend for their departure. It had n't 
occurred to her before to exaggerate it had not oc 
curred to her that she could ; but she seemed to be 
come aware to-night that there had been just enough 
in this relation to meet, to provoke, the free concep 
tion of a little more. 

She presently put it that, at any rate, promise or no 
promise, Milly would at a pinch be able, in London, 
to act on his permission to make him a sign; to which 
Milly replied with readiness that her ability, though 
evident, would be none the less quite wasted, inas 
much as the gentleman would to a certainty be still in 
America. He had a great deal to do there which he 

137 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

would scarce have begun; and in fact she might very 
well not have thought of London at all if she had n't 
been sure he was n't yet near coming back. It was 
perceptible to her companion that the moment our 
young woman had so far committed herself she had a 
sense of having overstepped; which was not quite 
patched up by her saying the next minute, possibly 
with a certain failure of presence of mind, that the 
last thing she desired was the air of running after him. 
Mrs. Stringham wondered privately what question 
there could be of any such appearance the danger 
of which thus suddenly came up; but she said for the 
time nothing of it she only said other things : one 
of which was, for instance, that if Mr. Densher was 
away he was away, and this the end of it : also that of 
course they must be discreet at any price. But what 
was the measure of discretion, and how was one to be 
sure ? So it was that, as they sat there, she produced 
her own case: she had a possible tie with London, 
which she desired as little to disown as she might wish 
to risk presuming on it. She treated her companion, 
in short, for their evening's end, to the story of Maud 
Manningham, the odd but interesting English girl 
who had formed her special affinity in the old days at 
the Vevey school; whom she had written to, after 
their separation, with a regularity that had at first fal 
tered and then altogether failed, yet that had been for 
the time quite a fine case of crude constancy; so that it 
had in fact flickered up again of itself on the occasion 
of the marriage of each. They had then once more 
fondly, scrupulously written Mrs. Lowder first; 
and even another letter or two had afterwards passed. 

138 



BOOK THIRD 

This, however, had been the end though with no 
rupture, only a gentle drop : Maud Manningham had 
made, she believed, a great marriage, while she her 
self had made a small; on top of which, moreover, 
distance, difference, diminished community and im 
possible reunion had done the rest of the work. It was 
but after all these years that reunion had begun to 
show as possible if the other party to it, that is, 
should be still in existence. That was exactly what it 
now appeared to our friend interesting to ascertain, 
as, with one aid and another, she believed she might. 
It was an experiment she would at all events now 
make if Milly did n't object. 

Milly in general objected to nothing, and though 
she asked a question or two she raised no present plea. 
Her questions or at least her own answers to them 
kindled on Mrs. Stringham's part a backward 
train : she had n't known till to-night how much she 
remembered, or how fine it might be to see what had 
become of large high-coloured Maud, florid, alien, 
exotic which had been just the spell even to the 
perceptions of youth. There was the danger she 
frankly touched it that such a temperament 
might n't have matured, with the years, all in the 
sense of fineness : it was the sort of danger that, in re 
newing relations after long breaks, one had always to 
look in the face. To gather in strayed threads was 
to take a risk for which, however, she was prepared 
if Milly was. The possible "fun," she confessed, was 
by itself rather tempting; and she fairly sounded, 
with this wound up a little as she was the note 
of fun as the harmless final right of fifty years of mere 

139 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

New England virtue. Among the things she was after 
wards to recall was the indescribable look dropped on 
her, at that, by her companion; she was still seated 
there between the candles and before the finished 
supper, while Milly moved about, and the look was 
long to figure for her as an inscrutable comment on 
her notion of freedom. Challenged, at any rate, as for 
the last wise word, Milly showed perhaps, musingly, 
charmingly, that, though her attention had been 
mainly soundless, her friend's story produced as a 
resource unsuspected, a card from up the sleeve 
half-surprised, half-beguiled her. Since the matter, 
such as it was, depended on that, she brought out 
before she went to bed an easy, a light " Risk every 
thing!" 

This quality in it seemed possibly a little to deny 
weight to Maud Lowder's evoked presence as 
Susan Stringham, still sitting up, became, in excited 
reflexion, a trifle more conscious. Something deter 
minant, when the girl had left her, took place in her 
nameless but, as soon as she had given way, co 
ercive. It was as if she knew again, in this fulness of 
time, that she had been, after Maud's marriage, just 
sensibly outlived or, as people nowadays said, shunted. 
Mrs. Lowder had left her behind, and on the occasion, 
subsequently, of the corresponding date in her own 
life not the second, the sad one, with its dignity of 
sadness, but the first, with the meagreness of its sup 
posed felicity she had been, in the same spirit, 
almost patronisingly pitied. If that suspicion, even 
when it had ceased to matter, had never quite died 
out for her, there was doubtless some oddity in its 

140 



BOOK THIRD 

now offering itself as a link, rather than as another 
break, in the chain ; and indeed there might well have 
been for her a mood in which the notion of the de 
velopment of patronage in her quondam schoolmate 
would have settled her question in another sense. It 
was actually settled if the case be worth our analy 
sis by the happy consummation, the poetic justice, 
the generous revenge, of her having at last something 
to show. Maud, on their parting company, had ap 
peared to have so much, and would now for was n't 
it also in general quite the rich law of English life ? 
have, with accretions, promotions, expansions, ever 
so much more. Very good ; such things might be ; she 
rose to the sense of being ready for them. Whatever 
Mrs. Lowder might have to show and one hoped 
one did the presumptions all justice she would 
have nothing like Milly Theale, who constituted the 
trophy producible by poor Susan. Poor Susan lin 
gered late till the candles were low, and as soon as 
the table was cleared she opened her neat portfolio. 
She had n't lost the old clue; there were connexions 
she remembered, addresses she could try; so the thing 
was to begin. She wrote on the spot. 



BOOK FOURTH 



IT had all gone so fast after this that Milly uttered 
but the truth nearest to hand in saying to the gentle 
man on her right who was, by the same token, the 
gentleman on her hostess's left that she scarce 
even then knew where she was : the words marking 
her first full sense of a situation really romantic. They 
were already dining, she and her friend, at Lancaster 
Gate, and surrounded, as it seemed to her, with every 
English accessory; though her consciousness of Mrs. 
Lowder's existence, and still more of her remarkable 
identity, had been of so recent and so sudden a birth. 
Susie, as she was apt to call her companion for a 
lighter change, had only had to wave a neat little 
wand for the fairy-tale to begin at once; in conse 
quence of which Susie now glittered for, with Mrs. 
Stringham's new sense of success, it came to that 
in the character of a fairy godmother. Milly had al 
most insisted on dressing her, for the present occasion, 
as one ; and it was no fault of the girl's if the good 
lady had n't now appeared in a peaked hat, a short 
petticoat and diamond shoe-buckles, brandishing the 
magic crutch. The good lady bore herself in truth not 
less contentedly than if these insignia had marked her 
work; and Milly's observation to Lord Mark had 
doubtless just been the result of such a light exchange 
of looks with her as even the great length of the table 

H5 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

could n't baffle. There were twenty persons between 
them, but this sustained passage was the sharpest 
sequel yet to that other comparison of views during 
the pause on the Swiss pass. It almost appeared to 
Milly that their fortune had been unduly precipitated 

as if properly they were in the position of having 
ventured on a small joke and found the answer out of 
proportion grave. She could n't at this moment for 
instance have said whether, with her quickened per 
ceptions, she were more enlivened or oppressed ; and 
the case might in fact have been serious had n't she, 
by good fortune, from the moment the picture loomed, 
quickly made up her mind that what finally most 
concerned her was neither to seek nor to shirk, was 
n't even to wonder too much, but was to let things 
come as they would, since there was little enough 
doubt of how they would go. 

Lord Mark had been brought to her before dinner 

not by Mrs. Lowder, but by the handsome girl, 
that lady's niece, who was now at the other end and 
on the same side as Susie; he had taken her in, and 
she meant presently to ask him about Miss Croy, the 
handsome girl, actually offered to her sight though 
now in a splendid way but for the second time. 
The first time had been the occasion only three 
days before of her calling at their hotel with her 
aunt and then making, for our other two heroines, a 
great impression of beauty and eminence. This im 
pression had remained so with Milly that at present, 
and although her attention was aware at the same 
time of everything else, her eyes were mainly engaged 
with Kate Croy when not engaged with Susie. That 

146 



BOOK FOURTH 

wonderful creature's eyes moreover readily met them 
she ranked now as a wonderful creature; and it 
seemed part of the swift prosperity of the American 
visitors that, so little in the original reckoning, she 
should yet. appear conscious, charmingly, frankly 
conscious, of possibilities of friendship for them. 
Milly had easily and, as a guest, gracefully general 
ised : English girls had a special strong beauty which 
particularly showed in evening dress above all 
when, as was strikingly the case with this one, the 
dress itself was what it should be. That observation 
she had all ready for Lord Mark when they should, 
after a little, get round to it. She seemed even now to 
see that there might be a good deal they would get 
round to ; the indication being that, taken up once for 
all with her other neighbour, their hostess would 
leave them much to themselves. Mrs. Lowder's other 
neighbour was the Bishop of Murrum a real bish 
op, such as Milly had never seen, with a complicated 
costume, a voice like an old-fashioned wind instru 
ment, and a face all the portrait of a prelate ; while the 
gentleman on our young lady's left, a gentleman thick- 
necked, large and literal, who looked straight before 
him and as if he were not to be diverted by vain words 
from that pursuit, clearly counted as an offset to the 
possession of Lord Mark. As Milly made out these 
things with a shade of exhilaration at the way she 
already fell in she saw how she was justified of her 
plea for people and her love of life. It was n't then, 
as the prospect seemed to show, so difficult to get into 
the current, or to stand at any rate on the bank. It 
was easy to get near if they were near ; and yet the 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

elements were different enough from any of her old 
elements, and positively rich and strange. 

She asked herself if her right-hand neighbour would 
understand what she meant by such a description of 
them should she throw it off; but another of the things 
to which precisely her sense was awakened was that 
no, decidedly, he would n't. It was nevertheless by 
this time open to her that his line would be to be 
clever ; and indeed, evidently, no little of the interest 
was going to be in the fresh reference and fresh effect 
both of people's cleverness and of their simplicity. 
She thrilled, she consciously flushed, and all to turn 
pale again, with the certitude it had never been so 
present that she should find herself completely in 
volved : the very air of the place, the pitch of the occa 
sion, had for her both so sharp a ring and so deep an 
undertone. The smallest things, the faces, the hands, 
the jewels of the women, the sound of words, espe 
cially of names, across the table, the shape of the 
forks, the arrangement of the flowers, the attitude of 
the servants, the walls of the room, were all touches in 
a picture and denotements in a play; and they marked 
for her moreover her alertness of vision. She had 
never, she might well believe, been in such a state of 
vibration; her sensibility was almost too sharp for her 
comfort: there were for example more indications 
than she could reduce to order in the manner of the 
friendly niece, who struck her as distinguished and 
interesting, as in fact surprisingly genial. This young 
woman's type had, visibly, other possibilities; yet 
here, of its own free movement, it had already 
sketched a relation. Were they, Miss Croy and she, 

148 



BOOK FOURTH 

to take up the tale where their two elders had left it off 
so many years before ? were they to find they liked 
each other and to try for themselves whether a scheme 
of constancy on more modern lines could be worked ? 
She had doubted, as they came to England, of Maud 
Manningham, had believed her a broken reed and a 
vague resource, had seen their dependence on her as 
a state of mind that would have been shamefully silly 
so far as it was dependence had they wished to 
do anything so inane as "get into society." To have 
made their pilgrimage all for the sake of such society 
as Mrs. Lowder might have in reserve for them 
that did n't bear thinking of at all, and she herself 
had quite chosen her course for curiosity about other 
matters. She would have described this curiosity as a 
desire to see the places she had read about, and that 
description of her motive she was prepared to give her 
neighbour even though, as a consequence of it, he 
should find how little she had read. It was almost at 
present as if her poor prevision had been rebuked by 
the majesty she could scarcely call it less of the 
event, or at all events by the commanding character 
of the two figures (she could scarcely call that less 
either) mainly presented. Mrs. Lowder and her niece, 
however dissimilar, had at least in common that each 
was a great reality. That was true, primarily, of the 
aunt so true that Milly wondered how her own 
companion had arrived in other years at so odd an 
alliance; yet she none the less felt Mrs. Lowder as a 
person of whom the mind might in two or three days 
roughly make the circuit. She would sit there massive 
at least while one attempted it; whereas Miss Croy, 

149 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

the handsome girl, would indulge in incalculable 
movements that might interfere with one's tour. She 
was the amusing resisting ominous fact, none the less, 
and each other person and thing was just such a fact; 
and it served them right, no doubt, the pair of them, 
for having rushed into their adventure. 

Lord Mark's intelligence meanwhile, however, had 
met her own quite sufficiently to enable him to tell her 
how little he could clear up her situation. He ex 
plained, for that matter or at least he hinted 
that there was no such thing to-day in London as 
saying where any one was. Every one was every 
where nobody was anywhere. He should be put 
to it yes, frankly to give a name of any sort or 
kind to their hostess's "set." Was it a set at all, or 
was n't it, and were there not really no such things 
as sets in the place any more ? was there anything 
but the groping and pawing, that of the vague billows 
of some great greasy sea in mid-Channel, of masses of 
bewildered people trying to "get" they did n't know 
what or where ? He threw out the question, which 
seemed large ; Milly felt that at the end of five minutes 
he had thrown out a great many, though he followed 
none more than a step or two ; perhaps he would prove 
suggestive, but he helped her as yet to no discrimina 
tions : he spoke as if he had given them up from too 
much knowledge. He was thus at the opposite ex 
treme from herself, but, as a consequence of it, also 
wandering and lost; and he was furthermore, for all 
his temporary incoherence, to which she guessed there 
would be some key, as packed a concretion as either 
Mrs. Lowder or Kate. The only light in which he 

150 



BOOK FOURTH 

placed the former of these ladies was that of an ex 
traordinary woman a most extraordinary woman, 
and "the more extraordinary the more one knows 
her," while of the latter he said nothing for the mo 
ment but that she was tremendously, yes, quite tre 
mendously, good-looking. It was some time, she 
thought, before his talk showed his cleverness, and 
yet each minute she believed in that mystery more, 
quite apart from what her hostess had told her on 
first naming him. Perhaps he was one of the cases 
she had heard of at home those characteristic cases 
of people in England who concealed their play of 
mind so much more than they advertised it. Even 
Mr. Densher a little did that. And what made Lord 
Mark, at any rate, so real either, when this was a 
trick he had apparently so mastered ? His type some 
how, as by a life, a need, an intention of its own, took 
all care for vividness off his hands; that was enough. 
It was difficult to guess his age whether he were a 
young man who looked old or an old man who looked 
young; it seemed to prove nothing, as against other 
things, that he was bald and, as might have been said, 
slightly stale, or, more delicately perhaps, dry : there 
was such a fine little fidget of preoccupied life in him, 
and his eyes, at moments though it was an appear 
ance they could suddenly lose were as candid and 
clear as those of a pleasant boy. Very neat, very light, 
and so fair that there was little other indication of his 
moustache than his constantly feeling it which was 
again boyish he would have affected her as the 
most intellectual person present if he had not affected 
her as the most frivolous. The latter quality was 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

rather in his look than in anything else, though he 
constantly wore his double eye-glass, which was, much 
more, Bostonian and thoughtful. 

The idea of his frivolity had, no doubt, to do with 
his personal designation, which represented as yet, 
for our young woman, a little confusedly a con 
nexion with an historic patriciate, a class that in turn, 
also confusedly, represented an affinity with a social 
element she had never heard otherwise described 
than as "fashion." The supreme social element in 
New York had never known itself but as reduced to 
that category, and though Milly was aware that, as 
applied to a territorial and political aristocracy, the 
label was probably too simple, she had for the time 
none other at hand. She presently, it is true, enriched 
her idea with the perception that her interlocutor was 
indifferent ; yet this, indifferent as aristocracies notori 
ously were, saw her but little further, inasmuch as 
she felt that, in the first place, he would much rather 
get on with her than not, and in the second was only 
thinking of too many matters of his own. If he kept 
her in view on the one hand and kept so much else on 
the other the way he crumbed up his bread was a 
proof why did he hover before her as a potentially 
insolent noble ? She could n't have answered the 
question, and it was precisely one of those that 
swarmed. They were complicated, she might fairly 
have said, by his visibly knowing, having known from 
afar off, that she was a stranger and an American, 
and by his none the less making no more of it than if 
she and her like were the chief of his diet. He took 
her, kindly enough, but imperturbably, irreclaimably, 

152 



BOOK FOURTH 

for granted, and it would n't in the least help that she 
herself knew him, as quickly, for having been in her 
country and threshed it out. There would be nothing 
for her to explain or attenuate or brag about; she 
could neither escape nor prevail by her strangeness; 
he would have, for that matter, on such a subject, 
more to tell her than to learn from her. She might 
learn from him why she was so different from the 
handsome girl which she did n't know, being 
merely able to feel it ; or at any rate might learn from 
him why the handsome girl was so different from her. 
On these lines, however, they would move later; 
the lines immediately laid down were, in spite of his 
vagueness for his own convenience, definite enough. 
She was already, he observed to her, thinking what 
she should say on her other side which was what 
Americans were always doing. She need n't in con 
science say anything at all; but Americans never 
knew that, nor ever, poor creatures, yes (she had in 
terposed the " poor creatures ! ") what not to do. The 
burdens they took on the things, positively, they 
made an affair of! This easy and after all friendly 
jibe at her race was really for her, on her new friend's 
part, the note of personal recognition so far as she re 
quired it; and she gave him a prompt and conscious 
example of morbid anxiety by insisting that her desire 
to be, herself, "lovely" all round was justly founded 
on the lovely way Mrs. Lowder had met her. He was 
directly interested in that, and it was not till after 
wards she fully knew how much more information 
about their friend he had taken than given. Here 
again for instance was a characteristic note : she had, 

153 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

on the spot, with her first plunge into the obscure 
depths of a society constituted from far back, en 
countered the interesting phenomenon of compli 
cated, of possibly sinister motive. However, Maud 
Manningham (her name, even in her presence, some 
how still fed the fancy) had, all the same, been lovely, 
and one was going to meet her now quite as far on as 
one had one's self been met. She had been with them 
at their hotel they were a pair before even they 
had supposed she could have got their letter. Of 
course indeed they had written in advance, but they 
had followed that up very fast. She had thus engaged 
them to dine but two days later, and on the morrow 
again, without waiting for a return visit, without 
waiting for anything, she had called with her niece. 
It was as if she really cared for them, and it was 
magnificent fidelity fidelity to Mrs. Stringham, her 
own companion and Mrs. Lowder's former school 
mate, the lady with the charming face and the rather 
high dress down there at the end. 

Lord Mark took in through his nippers these 
balanced attributes of Susie. " But is n't Mrs. String- 
ham's fidelity then equally magnificent ? " 

"Well, it's a beautiful sentiment; but it is n't as if 
she had anything to give." 

"Hasn't she got you?" Lord Mark asked with 
out excessive delay. 

"Me to give Mrs. Lowder?" Milly had clearly 
not yet seen herself in the light of such an offering. 
"Oh I'm rather a poor present; and I don't feel as 
if, even at that, I had as yet quite been given." 

"You 've been shown, and if our friend has jumped 
154 



BOOK FOURTH 

at you it comes to the same thing." He made his 
jokes, Lord Mark, without amusement for himself; 
yet it was n't that he was grim. "To be seen, you 
must recognise, is, for you, to be jumped at; and, if 
it's a question of being shown, here you are again. 
Only it has now been taken out of your friend's hands ; 
it 's Mrs. Lowder already who 's getting the benefit. 
Look round the table, and you '11 make out, I think, 
that you're being, from top to bottom, jumped at." 

"Well then," said Milly, "I seem also to feel that I 
like it better than being made fun of." 

It was one of the things she afterwards saw 
Milly was for ever seeing things afterwards that 
her companion had here had some way of his own, 
quite unlike any one's else, of assuring her of his con 
sideration. She wondered how he had done it, for he 
had neither apologised nor protested. She said to her 
self at any rate that he had led her on ; and what was 
most odd was the question by which he had done so. 
" Does she know much about you ? " 

"No, she just likes us." 

Even for this his travelled lordship, seasoned and 
saturated, had no laugh. "I mean you particularly. 
Has that lady with the charming face, which is charm 
ing, told her ? " 

Milly cast about. "Told her what?" 

"Everything." 

This, with the way he dropped it, again consider 
ably moved her made her feel for a moment that 
as a matter of course she was a subject for disclos 
ures. But she quickly found her answer. " Oh as for 
that you must ask her." 

155 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

"Your clever companion?" 

"Mrs. Lowder." 

He replied to this that their hostess was a person 
with whom there were certain liberties one never 
took, but that he was none the less fairly upheld, in 
asmuch as she was for the most part kind to him and 
as, should he be very good for a while, she would 
probably herself tell him. "And I shall have at any 
rate in the meantime the interest of seeing what she 
does with you. That will teach me more or less, you 
see, how much she knows." 

Milly followed this it was lucid, but it suggested 
something apart. "How much does she know about 
you?" 

"Nothing," said Lord Mark serenely. "But that 
does n't matter for what she does with me." And 
then as to anticipate Milly's question about the nat 
ure of such doing: "This for instance turning me 
straight on for you." 

The girl thought. "And you mean she would n't 
if she did know ? " 

He met it as if it were really a point. "No. I be 
lieve, to do her justice, she still would. So you can be 
easy." 

Milly had the next instant then acted on the per 
mission. " Because you 're even at the worst the best 
thing she has ? " 

With this he was at last amused. "I was till you 
came. You're the best now." 

It was strange his words should have given her the 
sense of his knowing, but it was positive that they did 
so, and to the extent of making her believe them, 

1 S 6 



BOOK FOURTH 

though still with wonder. That really from this first 
of their meetings was what was most to abide with 
her : she accepted almost helplessly she surrendered 
so to the inevitable in it being the sort of thing, as 
he might have said, that he at least thoroughly be 
lieved he had, in going about, seen enough of for all 
practical purposes. Her submission was naturally 
moreover not to be impaired by her learning later on 
that he had paid at short intervals, though at a time 
apparently just previous to her own emergence from 
the obscurity of extreme youth, three separate visits 
to New York, where his nameable friends and his 
contrasted contacts had been numerous. His impres 
sion, his recollection of the whole mixed quantity, 
was still visibly rich. It had helped him to place her, 
and she was more and more sharply conscious of hav 
ing as with the door sharply slammed upon her 
and the guard's hand raised in signal to the train 
been popped into the compartment in which she was 
to travel for him. It was a use of her that many a girl 
would have been doubtless quick to resent; and the 
kind of mind that thus, in our young lady, made all 
for mere seeing and taking is precisely one of the 
charms of our subject. Milly had practically just 
learned from him, had made out, as it were, from her 
rumbling compartment, that he gave her the highest 
place among their friend's actual properties. She was 
a success, that was what it came to, he presently as 
sured her, and this was what it was to be a success ; it 
always happened before one could know it. One's 
ignorance was in fact often the greatest part of it. 
"You haven't had time yet," he said; "this is no- 

157 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

thing. But you'll see. You'll see everything. You 
c an, you know everything you dream of." 

He made her more and more wonder; she almost 
felt as if he were showing her visions while he spoke ; 
and strangely enough, though it was visions that had 
drawn her on, she had n't had them in connexion - 
that is in such preliminary and necessary connexion 

with such a face as Lord Mark's, such eyes and 
such a voice, such a tone and such a manner. He had 
for an instant the effect of making her ask herself if 
she were after all going to be afraid ; so distinct was it 
for fifty seconds that a fear passed over her. There 
they were again yes, certainly : Susie's overture to 
Mrs. Lowder had been their joke, but they had pressed 
in that gaiety an electric bell that continued to sound. 
Positively while she sat there she had the loud rattle 
in her ears, and she wondered during these moments 
why the others did n't hear it. They did n't stare, 
they did n't smile, and the fear in her that I speak of 
was but her own desire to stop it. That dropped, 
however, as if the alarm itself had ceased; she seemed 
to have seen in a quick though tempered glare that 
there were two courses for her, one to leave London 
again the first thing in the morning, the other to do 
nothing at all. Well, she would do nothing at all; she 
was already doing it; more than that, she had already 
done it, and her chance was gone. She gave herself up 

she had the strangest sense, on the spot, of so de 
ciding; for she had turned a corner before she went 
on again with Lord Mark. Inexpressive but in 
tensely significant, he met as no one else could have 
done the very question she had suddenly put to Mrs. 



BOOK FOURTH 

Stringham on the Briinig. Should she have it, what 
ever she did have, that question had been, for long ? 
"Ah so possibly not," her neighbour appeared to 
reply; "therefore, don't you see? I'm the way." It 
was vivid that he might be, in spite of his absence 
of flourish; the way being doubtless just in that 
absence. The handsome girl, whom she did n't lose 
sight of and who, she felt, kept her also in view 
Mrs. Lowder's striking niece would perhaps be the 
way as well, for in her too was the absence of flourish, 
though she had little else, so far as one could tell, in 
common with Lord Mark. Yet how indeed could one 
tell, what did one understand, and of what was one, 
for that matter, provisionally conscious but of their 
being somehow together in what they represented ? 
Kate Croy, fine but friendly, looked over at her as 
really with a guess at Lord Mark's effect on her. If 
she could guess this effect what then did she know 
about it and in what degree had she felt it herself? 
Did that represent, as between them, anything par 
ticular, and should she have to count with them as 
duplicating, as intensifying by a mutual intelligence, 
the relation into which she was sinking ? Nothing 
was so odd as that she should have to recognise so 
quickly in each of these glimpses of an instant the 
various signs of a relation; and this anomaly itself, 
had she had more time to give to it, might well, might 
almost terribly have suggested to her that her doom 
was to live fast. It was queerly a question of the short 
run and the consciousness proportionately crowded. 
These were immense excursions for the spirit of a 
young person at Mrs. Lowder's mere dinner-party; 

159 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

but what was so significant and so admonitory as the 
fact of their being possible ? What could they have 
been but just a part, already, of the crowded con 
sciousness ? And it was just a part likewise that while 
plates were changed and dishes presented and periods 
in the banquet marked; while appearances insisted 
and phenomena multiplied and words reached her 
from here and there like plashes of a slow thick tide ; 
while Mrs. Lowder grew somehow more stout and 
more instituted and Susie, at her distance and in com 
parison, more thinly improvised and more different 
different, that is, from every one and every thing : 
it was just a part that while this process went forward 
our young lady alighted, came back, taking up her 
destiny again as if she had been able by a wave or 
two of her wings to place herself briefly in sight of an 
alternative to it. Whatever it' was it had showed in 
this brief interval as better than the alternative; and it 
now presented itself altogether in the image and in 
the place in which she had left it. The image was 
that of her being, as Lord Mark had declared, a suc 
cess. This depended more or less of course on his 
idea of the thing into which at present, however, 
she would n't go. But, renewing soon, she had asked 
him what he meant then that Mrs. Lowder would do 
with her, and he had replied that this might safely 
be left. "She'll get back," he pleasantly said, "her 
money." He could say it too which was singular 
without affecting her either as vulgar or as " nasty " ; 
and he had soon explained himself by adding: "No 
body here, you know, does anything for nothing." 
"Ah if you mean that we shall reward her as hard 
1 60 



BOOK FOURTH 

as ever we can, nothing is more certain. But she 's an 
idealist," Milly continued, "and idealists, in the long 
run, I think, dont feel that they lose." 

Lord Mark seemed, within the limits of his enthu 
siasm, to find this charming. "Ah she strikes you as 
an idealist ?" 

"She idealises us, my friend and me, absolutely. 
She sees us in a light," said Milly. "That's all I've 
got to hold on by. So don't deprive me of it." 

"I would n't think of such a thing for the world. 
But do you suppose," he continued as if it were sud 
denly important for him "do you suppose she sees 
me in a light ? " 

She neglected his question for a little, partly be 
cause her attention attached itself more and more to 
the handsome girl, partly because, placed so near 
their hostess, she wished not to show as discussing 
her too freely. Mrs. Lowder, it was true, steering in 
the other quarter a course in which she called at sub 
jects as if they were islets in an archipelago, con 
tinued to allow them their ease, and Kate Croy at the 
same time steadily revealed herself as interesting. 
Milly in fact found of a sudden her ease found it 
all as she bethought herself that what Mrs. Lowder 
was really arranging for was a report on her quality 
and, as perhaps might be said her value, from, Lord 
Mark. She wished him, the wonderful lady, to have 
no pretext for not knowing what he thought of Miss 
Theale. Why his judgement so mattered remained to 
be seen; but it was this divination that in any case 
now determined Milly's rejoinder. "No. She knows 
you. She has probably reason to. And you all here 

161 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

know each other I see that so far as you know 
anything. You know what you're used to, and it's 
your being used to it that, and that only that 
makes you. But there are things you don't know." 

He took it in as if it might fairly, to do him justice, 
be a point. "Things that / don't with all the 
pains I take and the way I've run about the world 
to leave nothing unlearned ? " 

Milly thought, and it was perhaps the very truth 
of his claim its not being negligible that sharp 
ened her impatience and thereby her wit. "You're 
blase, but you 're not enlightened. You 're familiar 
with everything, but conscious really of nothing. 
What I mean is that you 've no imagination." 

Lord Mark at this threw back his head, ranging 
with his eyes the opposite side of the room and show 
ing himself at last so much more flagrantly diverted 
that it fairly attracted their hostess's notice. Mrs. 
Lowder, however, only smiled on Milly for a sign 
that something racy was what she had expected, and 
resumed, with a splash of her screw, her cruise among 
the islands. "Oh I've heard that," the young man 
replied, "before!" 

"There it is then. You've heard everything be 
fore. You 've heard me of course before, in my coun 
try, often enough." 

"Oh never too often," he protested. "I'm sure 1 
hope I shall still hear you again and again." 

" But what good then has it done you ? " the girl 
went on as if now frankly to amuse him. 

"Oh you'll see when you know me." 

"But most assuredly I shall never know you." 
162 



BOOK FOURTH 

"Then that will be exactly," he laughed, "the 
good!" 

If it established thus that they could n't or would n't 
mix, why did Milly none the less feel through it a per 
verse quickening of the relation to which she had 
been in spite of herself appointed ? What queerer 
consequence of their not mixing than their talking 
for it was what they had arrived at almost 
intimately ? She wished to get away from him, or in 
deed, much rather, away from herself so far as she 
was present to him. She saw already wonderful 
creature, after all, herself too that there would be 
a good deal more of him to come for her, and that the 
special sign of their intercourse would be to keep her 
self out of the question. Everything else might come 
in only never that; and with such an arrangement 
they would perhaps even go far. This in fact might 
quite have begun, on the spot, with her returning 
again to the topic of the handsome girl. If she was 
to keep herself out she could naturally best do so by 
putting in somebody else. She accordingly put in 
Kate Croy, being ready to that extent as she was 
not at all afraid for her to sacrifice her if necessary. 
Lord Mark himself, for that matter, had made it easy 
by saying a little while before that no one among them 
did anything for nothing. "What then" she was 
aware of being abrupt "does Miss Croy, if she's 
so interested, do it for ?' What has she to gain by her 
lovely welcome ? Look at her now ! " Milly broke out 
with characteristic freedom of praise, though pulling 
herself up also with a compunctious "Oh!" as the 
direction thus given to their eyes happened to coincide 

163 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

with a turn of Kate's face to them. All she had meant 
to do was to insist that this face was fine; but what she 
had in fact done was to renew again her effect of 
showing herself to its possessor as conjoined with 
Lord Mark for some interested view of it. He had, 
however, promptly met her question. 

"To gain? Why your acquaintance." 

"Well, what's my acquaintance to her? She can 
care for me she must feel that only by being 
sorry for me; and that's why she's lovely: to be al 
ready willing to take the trouble to be. It 's the height 
of the disinterested." 

There were more things in this than one that Lord 
Mark might have taken up; but in a minute he had 
made his choice. "Ah then I'm nowhere, for I'm 
afraid / 'ra not sorry for you in the least. What do you 
make then," he asked, "of your success?" 

" Why just the great reason of all. It 's just because 
our friend there sees it that she pities me. She under 
stands," Milly said; "she's better than any of you. 
She's beautiful." 

He appeared struck with this at last with the 
point the girl made of it; to which she came back even 
after a diversion created by a dish presented between 
them. "Beautiful in character, I see. Is she so ? You 
must tell me about her." 

Milly wondered. " But have n't you known her 
longer than I ? Have n't you seen her for yourself? " 

"No I've failed with her. It's no use. I don't 
make her out. And I assure you I really should like 
to." His assurance had in fact for his companion a 
positive suggestion of sincerity; he affected her as 



BOOK FOURTH 

now saying something he did feel; and she was the 
more struck with it as she was still conscious of the 
failure even of curiosity he had just shown in respect 
to herself. She had meant something though in 
deed for herself almost only in speaking of their 
friend's natural pity; it had doubtless been a note of 
questionable taste, but it had quavered out in spite of 
her and he had n't so much as cared to enquire "Why 
'natural'?" Not that it wasn't really much better 
for her that he should n't : explanations would in 
truth have taken her much too far. Only she now 
perceived that, in comparison, her word about this 
other person really "drew" him; and there were 
things in that probably, many things, as to which 
she would learn more and which glimmered there 
already as part and parcel of that larger "real" with 
which, in her new situation, she was to be beguiled. 
It was in fact at the very moment, this element, not 
absent from what Lord Mark was further saying. 
"So you're wrong, you see, as to our knowing all 
about each other. There are cases where we break 
down. I at any rate give her up up, that is, to you. 
You must do her for me tell me, I mean, when you 
know more. You '11 notice," he pleasantly wound up, 
"that I've confidence in you." 

"Why should n't you have ?" Milly asked, observ 
ing in this, as she thought, a fine, though for such a 
man a surprisingly artless, fatuity. It was as if there 
might have been a question of her falsifying for the 
sake of her own show that is of the failure of her 
honesty to be proof against her desire to keep well 
with him herself. She did n't, none the less, other- 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

wise protest against his remark; there was something 
else she was occupied in seeing. It was the handsome 
girl alone, one of his own species and his own society, 
who had made him feel uncertain; of his certainties 
about a mere little American, a cheap exotic, imported 
almost wholesale and whose habitat, with its condi 
tions of climate, growth and cultivation, its immense 
profusion but its few varieties and thin development, 
he was perfectly satisfied. The marvel was too that 
Milly understood his satisfaction feeling she ex 
pressed the truth in presently saying: "Of course; I 
make out that she must be difficult; just as I see that 
I myself must be easy." And that was what, for all 
the rest of this occasion, remained with her as the 
most interesting thing that could remain. She was 
more and more content herself to be easy; she would 
have been resigned, even had it been brought 
straighter home to her, to passing for a cheap exotic. 
Provisionally, at any rate, that protected her wish to 
keep herself, with Lord Mark, in abeyance. They 
had all affected her as inevitably knowing each other, 
and if the handsome girl's place among them was 
something even their initiation could n't deal with 
why then she would indeed be a quantity. 



II 



THAT sense of quantities, separate or mixed, was re 
ally, no doubt, what most prevailed at first for our 
slightly gasping American pair; it found utterance 
for them in their frequent remark to each other that 
they had no one but themselves to thank. It dropped 
from Milly more than once that if she had ever known 
it was so easy ! though her exclamation mostly 
ended without completing her idea. This, however, 
was a trifle to Mrs. Stringham, who cared little 
whether she meant that in this case she would have 
come sooner. She could n't have come sooner, and 
she perhaps on the contrary meant for it would 
have been like her that she would n't have come 
at all ; why it was so easy being at any rate a matter as 
to which her companion had begun quickly to pick up 
views. Susie kept some of these lights for the present 
to herself, since, freely communicated, they might 
have been a little disturbing; with which, moreover, 
the quantities that we speak of as surrounding the 
two ladies were in many cases quantities of things 
and of other things to talk about. Their imme 
diate lesson accordingly was that they just had been 
caught up by the incalculable strength of a wave that 
was actually holding them aloft and that would nat 
urally dash them wherever it liked. They mean 
while, we hasten to add, made the best of their pre 
carious position, and if Milly had had no other help 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

for it she would have found not a little in the sight of 
Susan Shepherd's state. The girl had had nothing to 
say to her, for three days, about the "success" an 
nounced by Lord Mark which they saw, besides, 
otherwise established; she was too taken up, too 
touched, by Susie's own exaltation. Susie glowed in 
the light of her justified faith; everything had hap 
pened that she had been acute enough to think least 
probable; she had appealed to a possible delicacy in 
Maud Manningham a delicacy, mind you, but 
barely possible and her appeal had been met in a 
way that was an honour to human nature. This 
proved sensibility of the lady of Lancaster Gate per 
formed verily for both our friends during these first 
days the office of a fine floating gold-dust, something 
that threw over the prospect a harmonising blur. The 
forms, the colours behind it were strong and deep 
we have seen how they already stood out for Milly; 
but nothing, comparatively, had had so much of the 
dignity of truth as the fact of Maud's fidelity to a 
sentiment. That was what Susie was proud of, much 
more than of her great place in the world, which she 
was moreover conscious of not as yet wholly measur 
ing. That was what was more vivid even than her 
being in senses more worldly and in fact almost in 
the degree of a revelation English and distinct and 
positive, with almost no inward but with the finest 
outward resonance. 

>-usan Shepherd's word for her, again and again, 
was that she was " large"; yet it was not exactly a 
case, as to the soul, of echoing chambers : she might 
have been likened rather to a capacious receptacle, 

168 



BOOK FOURTH 

originally perhaps loose, but now drawn as tightly as 
possible over its accumulated contents a packed 
mass, for her American admirer, of curious detail. 
When the latter good lady, at home, had handsomely 
figured her friends as not small which was the way 
she mostly figured them there was a certain impli 
cation that they were spacious because they were 
empty. Mrs. Lowder, by a different law, was spacious 
because she was full, because she had something in 
common, even in repose, with a projectile, of great 
size, loaded and ready for use. That indeed, to Susie's 
romantic mind, announced itself as half the charm of 
their renewal a charm as of sitting in springtime, 
during a long peace, on the daisied grassy bank of 
some great slumbering fortress. True to her psycho 
logical instincts, certainly, Mrs. Stringham had noted 
that the "sentiment " she rejoiced in on her old school 
mate's part was all a matter of action and movement, 
was not, save for the interweaving of a more frequent 
plump "dearest" than she would herself perhaps 
have used, a matter of much other embroidery. She 
brooded with interest on this further mark of race, 
feeling in her own spirit a different economy. The 
joy, for her, was to know why she acted the reason 
was half the business; whereas with Mrs. Lowder 
there might have been no reason: "why" was the 
trivial seasoning-substance, the vanilla or the nut 
meg, omittable from the nutritive pudding without 
spoiling it. Mrs. Lowder's desire was clearly sharp 
that their young companions should also prosper to 
gether; and Mrs. Stringham's account of it all to 
Milly, during the first days, was that when, at Lan- 

169 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

caster Gate, she was not occupied in telling, as it were, 
about her, she was occupied in hearing much of the 
history of her hostess's brilliant niece. 

They had plenty, on these lines, the two elder wo 
men, to give and to take, and it was even not quite 
clear to the pilgrim from Boston that what she should 
mainly have arranged for in London was not a series 
of thrills for herself. She had a bad conscience, in 
deed almost a sense of immorality, in having to re 
cognise that she was, as she said, carried away. She 
laughed to Milly when she also said that she did n't 
know where it would end ; and the principle of her 
uneasiness was that Mrs. Lowder's life bristled for 
her with elements that she was really having to look 
at for the first time. They represented, she believed, 
the world, the world that, as a consequence of the 
cold shoulder turned to it by the Pilgrim Fathers, 
had never yet boldly crossed to Boston it would 
surely have sunk the stoutest Cunarder and she 
could n't pretend that she faced the prospect simply 
because Milly had had a caprice. She was in the act 
herself of having one, directed precisely to their pre 
sent spectacle. She could but seek strength in the 
thought that she had never had one or had never 
yielded to one, which came to the same thing be 
fore. The sustaining sense of it all moreover as literary 
material that quite dropped from her. She must 
wait, at any rate, she should see : it struck her, so far 
as she had got, as vast, obscure, lurid. She reflected 
in the watches of the night that she was probably just 
going to love it for itself that is for itself and Milly. 
The odd thing was that she could think of Milly's 

170 



BOOK FOURTH 

loving it without dread or with dread at least not 
on the score of conscience, only on the score of peace. 
It was a mercy at all events, for the hour, that their 
two spirits jumped together. 

While, for this first week that followed their dinner, 
she drank deep at Lancaster Gate, her companion 
was no less happily, appeared to be indeed on the 
whole quite as romantically, provided for. The hand 
some English girl from the heavy English house had 
been as a figure in a picture stepping by magic out of 
its frame : it was a case in truth for which Mrs. String- 
ham presently found the perfect image. She had lost 
none of her grasp, but quite the contrary, of that 
other conceit in virtue of which Milly was the wan 
dering princess : so what could be more in harmony 
now than to see the princess waited upon at the city 
gate by the worthiest maiden, the chosen daughter of 
the burgesses ? It was the real again, evidently, the 
amusement of the meeting for the princess too ; prin 
cesses living for the most part, in such an appeased 
way, on the plane of mere elegant representation. 
That was why they pounced, at city gates, on deputed 
flower-strewing damsels; that was why, after effigies, 
processions and other stately games, frank human 
company was pleasant to them. Kate Croy really 
presented herself to Milly the latter abounded for 
Mrs. Stringham in accounts of it as the wondrous 
London girl in person (by what she had conceived, 
from far back, of the London girl; conceived from 
the tales of travellers and the anecdotes of New York, 
from old porings over Punch and a liberal acquaint 
ance with the fiction of the day). The only thing was 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

that she was nicer, since the creature in question had 
rather been, to our young woman, an image of dread. 
She had thought of her, at her best, as handsome just 
as Kate was, with turns of head and tones of voice, 
felicities of stature and attitude, things " put on " and, 
for that matter, put off, all the marks of the product 
of a packed society who should be at the same time 
the heroine of a strong story. She placed this striking 
young person from the first in a story, saw her, by a 
necessity of the imagination, for a heroine, felt it the 
only character in which she would n't be wasted ; and 
this in spite of the heroine's pleasant abruptness, her 
forbearance from gush, her umbrellas and jackets 
and shoes as these things sketched themselves to 
Milly and something rather of a breezy boy in the 
carriage of her arms and the occasional freedom of 
her slang. 

When Milly had settled that the extent of her good 
will itself made her shy, she had found for the mo 
ment quite a sufficient key, and they were by that 
time thoroughly afloat together. This might well 
have been the happiest hour they were to know, at 
tacking in friendly independence their great London 
the London of shops and streets and suburbs 
oddly interesting to Milly, as well as of museums, 
monuments, "sights" oddly unfamiliar to Kate, 
while their elders pursued a separate course; these 
two rejoicing not less in their intimacy and each think 
ing the other's young woman a great acquisition for 
her own. Milly expressed to Susan Shepherd more 
than once that Kate had some secret, some smothered 
trouble, besides all the rest of her history; and that if 

172 



BOOK FOURTH 

she had so good-naturedly helped Mrs. Lowder to 
meet them this was exactly to create a diversion, to 
give herself something else to think about. But on the 
case thus postulated our young American had as yet 
had no light : she only felt that when the light should 
come it would greatly deepen the colour; and she 
liked to think she was prepared for anything. What 
she already knew moreover was full, to her vision, 
of English, of eccentric, of Thackerayan character 
Kate Croy having gradually become not a little 
explicit on the subject of her situation, her past, her 
present, her general predicament, her small success, 
up to the present hour, in contenting at the same time 
her father, her sister, her aunt and herself. It was 
Milly's subtle guess, imparted to her Susie, that the 
girl had somebody else as well, as yet unnamed, to 
content it being manifest that such a creature 
could n't help having; a creature not perhaps, if one 
would, exactly formed to inspire passions, since that 
always implied a certain silliness, but essentially 
seen, by the admiring eye of friendship, under the 
clear shadow of some probably eminent male interest. 
The clear shadow, from whatever source projected, 
hung at any rate over Milly's companion the whole 
week, and Kate Croy's handsome face smiled out of 
it, under bland skylights, in the presence alike of old 
masters passive in their glory and of thoroughly new 
ones, the newest, who bristled restlessly with pins 
and brandished snipping shears. 

It was meanwhile a pretty part of the intercourse 
of these young ladies that each thought the other 
more remarkable than herself that each thought 

173 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

herself, or assured the other she did, a comparatively 
dusty object and the other a favourite of nature and 
of fortune and covered thereby with the freshness of 
the morning. Kate was amused, amazed, at the way 
her friend insisted on "taking" her, and Milly won 
dered if Kate were sincere in finding her the most 
extraordinary quite apart from her being the most 
charming person she had come across. They had 
talked, in long drives, and quantities of history had 
not been wanting in the light of which Mrs. Low- 
der's niece might superficially seem to have had the 
best of the argument. Her visitor's American refer 
ences, with their bewildering immensities, their con 
founding moneyed New York, their excitements of 
high pressure, their opportunities of wild freedom, 
their record of used-up relatives, parents, clever 
eager fair slim brothers these the most loved all 
engaged, as well as successive superseded guardians, 
in a high extravagance of speculation and dissipation 
that had left this exquisite being her black dress, her 
white face and her vivid hair as the mere last broken 
link: such a picture quite threw into the shade the 
brief biography, however sketchily amplified, of a 
mere middle-class nobody in Bayswater. And though 
that indeed might be but a Bayswater way of putting 
it, in addition to which Milly was in the stage of in 
terest in Bayswater ways, this critic so far prevailed 
that, like Mrs. Stringham herself, she fairly got her 
companion to accept from her that she was quite the 
nearest approach to a practical princess Bayswater 
could hope ever to know. It was a fact it became 
one at the end of three days that Milly actually 

174 



BOOK FOURTH 

began to borrow from the handsome girl a sort of view 
of her state; the handsome girl's impression of it was 
clearly so sincere. This impression was a tribute, 
a tribute positively to power, power the source of 
which was the last thing Kate treated as a mystery. 
There were passages, under all their skylights, the 
succession of their shops being large, in which the 
latter's easy yet the least bit dry manner sufficiently 
gave out that if she had had so deep a pocket ! 

It was not moreover by any means with not having 
the imagination of expenditure that she appeared to 
charge her friend, but with not having the imagina 
tion of terror, of thrift, the imagination or in any de 
gree the habit of a conscious dependence on others. 
Such moments, when all Wigmore Street, for in 
stance, seemed to rustle about and the pale girl her 
self to be facing the different rustlers, usually so un 
discriminated, as individual Britons too, Britons 
personal, parties to a relation and perhaps even in 
trinsically remarkable such moments in especial 
determined for Kate a perception of the high happi 
ness of her companion's liberty. Milly's range was 
thus immense; she had to ask nobody for anything, 
to refer nothing to any one ; her freedom, her fortune 
and her fancy were her law ; an obsequious world sur 
rounded her, she could sniff up at every step its 
fumes. And Kate, these days, was altogether in the 
phase of forgiving her so much bliss; in the phase 
moreover of believing that, should they continue to 
go on together, she would abide in that generosity. 
She had at such a point as this no suspicion of a rift 
within the lute by which we mean not only none 

175 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

of anything's coming between them, but none of any 
definite flaw in so much clearness of quality. Yet, 
all the same, if Milly, at Mrs. Lowder's banquet, had 
described herself to Lord Mark as kindly used by the 
young woman on the other side because of some 
faintly-felt special propriety in it, so there really did 
match with this, privately, on the young woman's 
part, a feeling not analysed but divided, a latent im 
pression that Mildred Theale was not, after all, a 
person to change places, to change even chances with. 
Kate, verily, would perhaps not quite have known 
what she meant by this discrimination, and she came 
near naming it only when she said to herself that, 
rich as Milly was, one probably would n't which 
was singular ever hate her for it. The handsome 
girl had, with herself, these felicities and crudities: 
it was n't obscure to her that, without some very 
particular reason to help, it might have proved a test 
of one's philosophy not to be irritated by a mistress of 
millions, or whatever they were, who, as a girl, so 
easily might have been, like herself, only vague and 
cruelly female. She was by no means sure of liking 
Aunt Maud as much as she deserved, and Aunt 
Maud's command of funds was obviously inferior to 
Milly's. There was thus clearly, as pleading for the 
latter, some influence that would later on become 
distinct; and meanwhile, decidedly, it was enough 
that she was as charming as she was queer and as 
queer as she was charming all of which was a rare 
amusement; as well, for that matter, as further suffi 
cient that there were objects of value she had already 
pressed on Kate's acceptance. A week of her society 



BOOK FOURTH 

in these conditions conditions that Milly chose 
to sum up as ministering immensely, for a blind 
vague pilgrim, to aid and comfort announced itself 
from an early hour as likely to become a week of 
presents, acknowledgements, mementoes, pledges of 
gratitude and admiration, that were all on one side. 
Kate as promptly embraced the propriety of making 
it clear that she must forswear shops till she should 
receive some guarantee that the contents of each one 
she entered as a humble companion should n't be 
placed at her feet; yet that was in truth not before 
she had found herself in possession, under whatever 
protests, of several precious ornaments and other 
minor conveniences. 

Great was the absurdity too that there should have 
come a day, by the end of the week, when it appeared 
that all Milly would have asked in definite "return," 
as might be said, was to be told a little about Lord 
Mark and to be promised the privilege of a visit to 
Mrs. Condrip. Far other amusements had been 
offered her, but her eagerness was shamelessly human, 
and she seemed really to count more on the revelation 
of the anxious lady at Chelsea than on the best nights 
of the opera. Kate admired, and showed it, such an 
absence of fear : to the fear of being bored in such a 
connexion she would have been so obviously entitled. 
Milly's answer to this was the plea of her curiosities 
which left her friend wondering as to their odd 
direction. Some among them, no doubt, were rather 
more intelligible, and Kate had heard without wonder 
that she was blank about Lord Mark. This young 
lady's account of him, at the same time, professed 

177 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

itself frankly imperfect; for what they best knew him 
by at Lancaster Gate was a thing difficult to explain. 
One knew people in general by something they had 
to show, something that, either for them or against, 
could be touched or named or proved ; and she could 
think of no other case of a value taken as so great and 
yet flourishing untested. His value was his future, 
which had somehow got itself as accepted by Aunt 
Maud as if it had been his good cook or his steam- 
launch. She, Kate, did n't mean she thought him a 
humbug; he might do great things but they were 
as yet, so to speak, all he had done. On the other 
hand it was of course something of an achievement, 
and not open to every one, to have got one's self taken 
so seriously by Aunt Maud. The best thing about 
him doubtless, on the whole, was that Aunt Maud 
believed in him. She was often fantastic, but she 
knew a humbug, and no, Lord Mark was n't that. 
He had been a short time in the House, on the Tory 
side, but had lost his seat on the first opportunity, 
and this was all he had to point to. However, he 
pointed to nothing; which was very possibly just a 
sign of his real cleverness, one of those that the really 
clever had in common with the really void. Even 
Aunt Maud frequently admitted that there was a 
good deal, for her view of him, to bring up the rear. 
And he was n't meanwhile himself indifferent in 
different to himself for he was working Lancaster 
Gate for all it was worth : just as it was, no doubt, 
working him, and just as the working and the worked 
were in London, as one might explain, the parties to 
every relation. 

178 



BOOK FOURTH 

Kate did explain, for her listening friend; every 
one who had anything to give it was true they were 
the fewest made the sharpest possible bargain for 
it, got at least its value in return. The strangest thing 
furthermore was that this might be in cases a happy 
understanding. The worker in one connexion was 
the worked in another ; it was as broad as it was long 
with the wheels of the system, as might be seen, 
wonderfully oiled. People could quite like each other 
in the midst of it, as Aunt Maud, by every appear 
ance, quite liked Lord Mark, and as Lord Mark, it 
was to be hoped, liked Mrs. Lowder, since if he 
did n't he was a greater brute than one could believe. 
She, Kate, had n't yet, it was true, made out what he 
was doing for her besides which the dear woman 
needed him, even at the most he could do, much less 
than she imagined; so far as all of which went, more 
over, there were plenty of things on every side she had 
n't yet made out. She believed, on the whole, in any 
one Aunt Maud took up; and she gave it to Milly as 
worth thinking of that, whatever wonderful people 
this young lady might meet in the land, she would 
meet no more extraordinary woman. There were 
greater celebrities by the million, and of course 
greater swells, but a bigger person, by Kate's view, 
and a larger natural handful every way, would really 
be far to seek. When Milly enquired with interest if 
Kate's belief in her was primarily on the lines of what 
Mrs. Lowder "took up," her interlocutress could 
handsomely say yes, since by the same principle she 
believed in herself. Whom but Aunt Maud's niece, 
pre-eminently, had Aunt Maud taken up, and who 

179 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

was thus more in the current, with her, of working 
and of being worked ? "You may ask," Kate said, 
"what in the world / have to give; and that indeed is 
just what I 'm trying to learn. There must be some 
thing, for her to think she can get it out of me. She 
will get it trust her; and then I shall see what it is; 
which I beg you to believe I should never have found 
out for myself." She declined to treat any question 
of Milly's own "paying" power as discussable; that 
Milly would pay a hundred per cent and even to 
the end, doubtless, through the nose was just the 
beautiful basis on which they found themselves. 

These were fine facilities, pleasantries, ironies, all 
these luxuries of gossip and philosophies of London 
and of life, and they became quickly, between the pair, 
the common form of talk, Milly professing herself de 
lighted to know that something was to be done with 
her. 'If the most remarkable woman in England was 
to do it, so much the better, and if the most remark 
able woman in England had them both in hand to 
gether why what could be jollier for each ? When 
she reflected indeed a little on the oddity of her want 
ing two at once Kate had the natural reply that it 
was exactly what showed her sincerity. She invari 
ably gave way to feeling, and feeling had distinctly 
popped up in her on the advent of her girlhood's friend. 
The way the cat would jump was always, in presence 
of anything that moved her, interesting to see ; visibly 
enough, moreover, it had n't for a long time jumped 
anything like so far. This in fact, as we already know, 
remained the marvel for Milly Theale, who, on sight 
of Mrs. Lowder, had found fifty links in respect to 

1 80 



BOOK FOURTH 

Susie absent from the chain of association. She knew 
so herself what she thought of Susie that she would 
have expected the lady of Lancaster Gate to think 
something quite different; the failure of which end 
lessly mystified her. But her mystification was the 
cause for her of another fine impression, inasmuch as 
when she went so far as to observe to Kate that Susan 
Shepherd and especially Susan Shepherd emerg 
ing so uninvited from an irrelevant past ought by 
all the proprieties simply to have bored Aunt Maud, 
her confidant agreed to this without a protest and 
abounded in the sense of her wonder. Susan Shep 
herd at least bored the niece that was plain ; this 
young woman saw nothing in her nothing to ac 
count for anything, not even for Milly's own indulg 
ence : which little fact became in turn to the latter's 
mind a fact of significance. It was a light on the hand 
some girl representing more than merely showed 
that poor Susie was simply as nought to her. This 
was in a manner too a general admonition to poor 
Susie's companion, who seemed to see marked by it 
the direction in which she had best most look out. 
It just faintly rankled in her that a person who was 
good enough and to spare for Milly Theale should n't 
be good enough for another girl; though, oddly 
enough, she could easily have forgiven Mrs. Lowder 
herself the impatience. Mrs. Lowder did n't feel it, 
and Kate Croy felt it with ease ; yet in the end, be 
it added, she grasped the reason, and the reason 
enriched her mind. Was n't it sufficiently the reason 
that the handsome girl was, with twenty other splen 
did qualities, the least bit brutal too, and did n't she 

181 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

suggest, as no one yet had ever done for her new 
friend, that there might be a wild beauty in that, and 
even a strange grace ? Kate was n't brutally brutal 
which Milly had hitherto benightedly supposed 
the only way; she was n't even aggressively so, but 
rather indifferently, defensively and, as might be 
said, by the habit of anticipation. She simplified in 
advance, was beforehand with her doubts, and knew 
with singular quickness what she was n't, as they 
said in New York, going to like. In that way at least 
people were clearly quicker in England than at home; 
and Milly could quite see after a little how such 
instincts might become usual in a world in which 
dangers abounded. There were clearly more dangers 
roundabout Lancaster Gate than one suspected in 
New York or could dream of in Boston. At all events, 
with more sense of them, there were more precautions, 
and it was a remarkable world altogether in which 
there could be precautions, on whatever ground, 
against Susie. 



Ill 



SHE certainly made up with Susie directly, however, 
for any allowance she might have had privately to 
extend to tepid appreciation; since the late and long 
talks of these two embraced not only everything 
offered and suggested by the hours they spent apart, 
but a good deal more besides. She might be as de 
tached as the occasion required at four o'clock in the 
afternoon, but she used no such freedom to any one 
about anything as she habitually used about every 
thing to Susan Shepherd at midnight. All the same, 
it should with much less delay than this have been 
mentioned, she had n't yet had n't, that is, at the 
end of six days produced any news for her comrade 
to compare with an announcement made her by the 
latter as a result of a drive with Mrs. Lowder, for a 
change, in the remarkable Battersea Park. The 
elder friends had sociably revolved there while the 
younger ones followed bolder fancies in the admir 
able equipage appointed to Milly at the hotel a 
heavier, more emblazoned, more amusing chariot 
than she had ever, with "stables" notoriously mis 
managed, known at home; whereby, in the course 
of the circuit, more than once repeated, it had "come 
out," as Mrs. Stringham said, that the couple at Lan 
caster Gate were, of all people, acquainted with Mil 
dred's other English friend, the gentleman, the one 
connected with the English newspaper (Susie hung 

183 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

fire a little over his name) who had been with her in 
New York so shortly previous to present adventures. 
He had been named of course in Battersea Park 
else he could n't have been identified; and Susie had 
naturally, before she could produce her own share in 
the matter as a kind of confession, to make it plain 
that her allusion was to Mr. Merton Densher. This 
was because Milly had at first a little air of not know 
ing whom she meant ; and the girl really kept, as well, 
a certain control of herself while she remarked that 
the case was surprising, the chance one in a thousand. 
They knew him, both Maud and Miss Croy knew 
him, she gathered too, rather well, though indeed it 
was n't on any show of intimacy that he had hap 
pened to be mentioned. It had n't been Susie 
made the point she herself who brought him in ; 
he had in fact not been brought in at all, but only re 
ferred to as a young journalist known to Mrs. Lowder 
and who had lately gone to their wonderful country 
Mrs. Lowder always said "your wonderful coun 
try " on behalf of his journal. But Mrs. Stringham 
had taken it up with the tips of her fingers indeed ; 
and that was the confession : she had, without mean 
ing any harm, recognised Mr. Densher as an acquaint 
ance of Milly's, though she had also pulled herself up 
before getting in too far. Mrs. Lowder had been 
struck, clearly it wasn't too much to say; then 
she also, it had rather seemed, had pulled herself up ; 
and there had been a little moment during which 
each might have been keeping something from the 
other. "Only,' said Milly's informant, "I luckily 
remembered in time that I had nothing whatever to 

184 



BOOK FOURTH 

keep which was much simpler and nicer. I don't 
know what Maud has, but there it is. She was inter 
ested, distinctly, in your knowing him in his hav 
ing met you over there with so little loss of time. 
But I ventured to tell her it had n't been so long as 
to make you as yet great friends. I don't know if I 
was right." 

Whatever time this explanation might have taken, 
there had been moments enough in the matter now 
before the elder woman's conscience had done itself 
justice to enable Milly to reply that although the 
fact in question doubtless had its importance she 
imagined they would n't find the importance over 
whelming. It was odd that their one Englishman 
should so instantly fit; it was n't, however, miracul 
ous they surely all had often seen how extraordin 
arily "small," as every one said, was the world. 
Undoubtedly also Susie had done just the plain thing 
in not letting his name pass. Why in the world should 
there be a mystery ? and what an immense one 
they would appear to have made if he should come 
back and find they had concealed their knowledge of 
him ! " I don't know, Susie dear," the girl observed, 
"what you think I have to conceal." 

"It doesn't matter, at a given moment," Mrs. 
Stringham returned, "what you know or don't know 
as to what I think; for you always find out the very 
next minute, and when you do find out, dearest, you 
never really care. Only," she presently asked, " have 
you heard of him from Miss Croy ? " 

"Heard of Mr. Densher? Never a word. We 
have n't mentioned him. Why should we ?" 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

"That you haven't I understand; but that your 
friend hasn't," Susie opined, "may mean some 
thing." 

"May mean what ?" 

"Well," Mrs. Stringham presently brought out, 
"I tell you all when I tell you that Maud asks me to 
suggest to you that it may perhaps be better for the 
present not to speak of him : not to speak of him to 
her niece, that is, unless she herself speaks to you 
first. But Maud thinks she won't." 

Milly was ready to engage for anything; but in 
respect to the facts as they so far possessed them 

it all sounded a little complicated. "Is it because 
there 's anything between them ? " 

"No r I gather not; but Maud's state of mind is 
precautionary. She's afraid of something. Or per 
haps it would be more correct to say she's afraid of 
everything." 

"She's afraid, you mean," Milly asked, "of their 

a liking each other ? " 

Susie had an intense thought and then an effusion. 
"My dear child, we move in a labyrinth." 

"Of course we do. That 's just the fun of it ! " said 
Milly with a strange gaiety. Then she added : " Don't 
tell me that in this for instance there are not 
abysses. I want abysses." 

Her friend looked at her it was not unfrequently 
the case a little harder than the surface of the occa 
sion seemed to require; and another person present 
at such times might have wondered to what inner 
thought of her own the good lady was trying to fit 
the speech. It was too much her disposition, no doubt, 

186 



BOOK FOURTH 

to treat her young companion's words as symptoms 
of an imputed malady. It was none the less, how 
ever, her highest law to be light when the girl was 
light. She knew how to be quaint with the new quaint- 
ness the great Boston gift ; it had been happily 
her note in the magazines; and Maud Lowder, to 
whom it was new indeed and who had never heard 
anything remotely like it, quite cherished her, as a 
social resource, by reason of it. It should n't there 
fore fail her now; with it in fact one might face most 
things. "Ah then let us hope we shall sound the 
depths I 'm prepared for the worst of sorrow 
and sin ! But she would like her niece we 're not 
ignorant of that, are we ? to marry Lord Mark. 
Has n't she told you so ? " 

"Has n't Mrs. Lowder told me ?" 

"No; has n't Kate ? It is n't, you know, that she 
does n't know it." 

Milly had, under her comrade's eyes, a minute of 
mute detachment. She had lived with Kate Croy 
for several days in a state of intimacy as deep as it 
had been sudden, and they had clearly, in talk, in 
many directions, proceeded to various extremities. 
Yet it now came over her as in a clear cold wave that 
there was a possible account of their relations in which 
the quantity her new friend had told her might have 
figured as small, as smallest, beside the quantity she 
had n't. She could n't say at any rate whether or 
no Kate had made the point that her aunt designed 
her for Lord Mark : it had only sufficiently come out 
which had been, moreover, eminently guessable 
that she was involved in her aunt's designs. Some- 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

how, for Milly, brush it over nervously as she might 
and with whatever simplifying hand, this abrupt ex 
trusion of Mr. Densher altered all proportions, had 
an effect on all values. It was fantastic of her to let it 
make a difference that she could n't in the least have 
defined and she was at least, even during these 
instants, rather proud of being able to hide, on the 
spot, the difference it did make. Yet all the same 
the effect for her was, almost violently, of that gentle 
man's having been there having been where she 
had stood till now in her simplicity before her. It 
would have taken but another free moment to make 
her see abysses since abysses were what she wanted 
in the mere circumstance of his own silence, in New 
York, about his English friends. There had really 
been in New York little time for anything; but, had 
she liked, Milly could have made it out for herself 
that he had avoided the subject of Miss Croy and that 
Miss Croy was yet a subject it could never be natural 
to avoid. It was to be added at the same time that 
even if his silence had been a labyrinth which was 
absurd in view of all the other things too he could n't 
possibly have spoken of this was exactly what 
must suit her, since it fell under the head of the plea 
she had just uttered to Susie. These things, however, 
came and went, and it set itself up between the com 
panions, for the occasion, in the oddest way, both that 
their happening all to know Mr. Densher except 
indeed that Susie did n't, but probably would was 
a fact attached, in a world of rushing about, to one 
of the common orders of chance; and yet further that 
it was amusing oh awfully amusing ! to be able 

1 88 



BOOK FOURTH 

fondly to hope that there was "something in" its 
having been left to crop up with such suddenness. 
There seemed somehow a possibility that the ground 
or, as it were, the air might in a manner have under 
gone some pleasing preparation ; though the question 
of this possibility would probably, after all, have 
taken some threshing out. The truth, moreover 
and there they were, already, our pair, talking about 
it, the "truth" ! had n't in fact quite cropped out. 
This, obviously, in view of Mrs. Lowder's request to 
her old friend. 

It was accordingly on Mrs. Lowder's recommenda 
tion that nothing should be said to Kate it was on 
all this might cover in Aunt Maud that the idea of an 
interesting complication could best hope to perch; 
and when in fact, after the colloquy we have reported, 
Milly saw Kate again without mentioning any name, 
her silence succeeded in passing muster with her as the 
beginning of a new sort of fun. The sort was all the 
newer by its containing measurably a small element 
of anxiety : when she had gone in for fun before it had 
been with her hands a little more free. Yet it was, 
none the less, rather exciting to be conscious of a still 
sharper reason for interest in the handsome girl, as 
Kate continued even now pre-eminently to remain 
for her; and a reason this was the great point of 
which the young woman herself could have no sus 
picion. Twice over thus, for two or three hours to 
gether, Milly found herself seeing Kate, quite fixing 
her, in the light of the knowledge that it was a face on 
which Mr. Densher's eyes had more or less familiarly 
rested and which, by the same token, had looked, 

180 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

rather more beautifully than less, into his own. She 
pulled herself up indeed with the thought that it had 
inevitably looked, as beautifully as one would, into 
thousands of faces in which one might one's self never 
trace it; but just the odd result of the thought was to 
intensify for the girl that side of her friend which she 
had doubtless already been more prepared than she 
quite knew to think of as the "other," the not wholly 
calculable. It was fantastic, and Milly was aware of 
this; but the other side was what had, of a sudden, 
been turned straight toward her by the show of Mr. 
Densher's propinquity. She had n't the excuse of 
knowing it for Kate's own, since nothing whatever as 
yet proved it particularly to be such. Never mind; 
it was with this other side now fully presented that 
Kate came and went, kissed her for greeting and for 
parting, talked, as usual, of everything but as it 
had so abruptly become for Milly the thing. Our 
young woman, it is true, would doubtless not have 
tasted so sharply a difference in this pair of occa 
sions had n't she been tasting so peculiarly her own 
possible betrayals. What happened was that after 
wards, on separation, she wondered if the matter 
had n't mainly been that she herself was so "other," 
so taken up with the unspoken ; the strangest thing of 
all being, still subsequently, that when she asked her 
self how Kate could have failed to feel it she became 
conscious of being here on the edge of a great dark 
ness. She should never know how Kate truly felt 
about anything such a one as Milly Theale should 
give her to feel. Kate would never and not from 
ill will nor from duplicity, but from a sort of failure 

190 



BOOK FOURTH 

of common terms reduce it to such a one's com 
prehension or put it within her convenience. 

It was as such a one, therefore, that, for three or 
four days more, Milly watched Kate as just such 
another; and it was presently as such a one that she 
threw herself into their promised visit, at last achieved, 
to Chelsea, the quarter of the famous Carlyle, the 
field of exercise of his ghost, his votaries, and the 
residence of " poor Marian," so often referred to and 
actually a somewhat incongruous spirit there. With 
our young woman's first view of poor Marian every 
thing gave way but the sense of how in England, 
apparently, the social situation of sisters could be 
opposed, how common ground for a place in the world 
could quite fail them : a state of things sagely per 
ceived to be involved in an hierarchical, an aristo 
cratic order. Just whereabouts in the order Mrs. 
Lowder had established her niece was a question not 
wholly void as yet, no doubt, of ambiguity though 
Milly was withal sure Lord Mark could exactly have 
fixed the point if he would, fixing it at the same time 
for Aunt Maud herself; but it was clear Mrs. Con- 
drip was, as might have been said, in quite another 
geography. She would n't have been to be found on 
the same social map, and it was as if her visitors had 
turned over page after page together before the final 
relief of their benevolent " Here ! " The interval was 
bridged of course, but the bridge verily was needed, 
and the impression left Milly to wonder if, in the gen 
eral connexion, it were of bridges or of intervals that 
the spirit not locally disciplined would find itself most 
conscious. It was as if at home, by contrast, there 

191 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

were neither neither the difference itself, from 
position to position, nor, on either side, and particu 
larly on one, the awfully good manner, the conscious 
sinking of a consciousness, that made up for it. The 
conscious sinking, at all events, and the awfully good 
manner, the difference, the bridge, the interval, the 
skipped leaves of the social atlas these, it was to be 
confessed, had a little, for our young lady, in default 
of stouter stuff, to work themselves into the light 
literary legend a mixed wandering echo of Trol- 
lope, of Thackeray, perhaps mostly of Dickens 
under favour of which her pilgrimage had so much 
appealed. She could relate to Susie later on, late the 
same evening, that the legend, before she had done 
with it, had run clear, that the adored author of "The 
Newcomes," in fine, had been on the whole the note : 
the picture lacking thus more than she had hoped, or 
rather perhaps showing less than she had feared, a 
certain possibility of Pickwickian outline. She ex 
plained how she meant by this that Mrs. Condrip 
had n't altogether proved another Mrs. Nickleby, 
nor even for she might have proved almost any 
thing, from the way poor worried Kate had spoken 
a widowed and aggravated Mrs. Micawber. 

Mrs. Stringham, in the midnight conference, in 
timated rather yearningly that, however the event 
might have turned, the side of English life such ex 
periences opened to Milly were just those she herself 
seemed " booked " as they were all, roundabout 
her now, always saying to miss : she had begun to 
have a little, for her fellow observer, these moments 
of fanciful reaction (reaction in which she was once 

192 



BOOK FOURTH 

more all Susan Shepherd) against the high sphere 
of colder conventions into which her overwhelming 
connexion with Maud Manningham had rapt her. 
Milly never lost sight for long of the Susan Shepherd 
side of her, and was always there to meet it when it 
came up and vaguely, tenderly, impatiently to pat it, 
abounding in the assurance that they would still pro 
vide for it. They had, however, to-night another 
matter in hand; which proved to be presently, on the 
girl's part, in respect to her hour of Chelsea, the revel 
ation that Mrs. Condrip, taking a few minutes when 
Kate was away with one of the children, in bed up 
stairs for some small complaint, had suddenly (with 
out its being in the least "led up to") broken ground 
on the subject of Mr. Densher, mentioned him with 
impatience as a person in love with her sister. " She 
wished me, if I cared for Kate, to know," Milly said 

"for it would be quite too dreadful, and one might 
do something." 

Susie wondered. " Prevent anything coming of it ? 
That's easily said. Do what ?" 

Milly had a dim smile. "I think that what she 
would like is that I should come a good deal to see 
her about it." 

"And doesn't she suppose you've anything else 
to do?" 

The girl had by this time clearly made it out. 
"Nothing but to admire and make much of her sister 

whom she does n't, however, herself in the least 
understand and give up one's time, and everything 
else, to it." It struck the elder friend that she spoke 
with an almost unprecedented approach to sharpness; 

193 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

as if Mrs. Condrip had been rather indescribably 
disconcerting. Never yet so much as just of late had 
Mrs. Stringham seen her companion exalted, and by 
the very play of something within, into a vague golden 
air that left irritation below. That was the great thing 
with Milly it was her characteristic poetry, or at 
least it was Susan Shepherd's. "But she made a 
point," the former continued, "of my keeping what 
she says from Kate. I 'm not to mention that she has 
spoken." 

"And why," Mrs. Stringham presently asked, "is 
Mr. Densher so dreadful ? " 

Milly had, she thought, a delay to answer some 
thing that suggested a fuller talk with Mrs. Condrip 
than she inclined perhaps to report. " It is n't so 
much he himself." Then the girl spoke a little as for 
the romance of it; one could never tell, with her, where 
romance would come in. " It 's the state of his for 
tunes." 

"And is that very bad ?" 

"He has no 'private means,' and no prospect of 
any. He has no income, and no ability, according 
to Mrs. Condrip, to make one. He's as poor, she 
calls it, as 'poverty,' and she says she knows what 
that is." 

Again Mrs. Stringham considered, and it presently 
produced something. " But is n't he brilliantly 
clever?" 

Milly had also then an instant that was not quite 
fruitless. " I have n't the least idea." 

To which, for the time, Susie only replied "Oh!" 
though by the end of a minute she had followed it 

194 



BOOK FOURTH 

with a slightly musing " I see " ; and that in turn with : 
"It's quite what Maud Lowder thinks." 

"That he'll never do anything?" 

"No quite the contrary: that he's exceptionally 
able." 

"Oh yes; I know" Milly had again, in refer 
ence to what her friend had already told her of this, 
her little tone of a moment before. " But Mrs. Con- 
drip's own great point is that Aunt Maud herself 
won't hear of any such person. Mr. Densher, she 
holds that 's the way, at any rate, it was explained 
to me won't ever be either a public man or a rich 
man. If he were public she'd be willing, as I under 
stand, to help him ; if he were rich without being 
anything else she'd do her best to swallow him. 
As it is she taboos him." 

"In short," said Mrs. Stringham as with a private 
purpose, "she told you, the sister, all about it. But 
Mrs. Lowder likes him," she added. 

"Mrs. Condrip did n't tell me that." 

"Well, she does, all the same, my dear, extremely." 

"Then there it is!" On which, with a drop and 
one of those sudden slightly sighing surrenders to a 
vague reflux and a general fatigue that had recently 
more than once marked themselves for her compan 
ion, Milly turned away. Yet the matter was n't left 
so, that night, between them, albeit neither perhaps 
could afterwards have said which had first come back 
to it. Milly 's own nearest approach at least, for a 
little, to doing so, was to remark that they appeared 
all every one they saw to think tremendously 
of money. This prompted in Susie a laugh, not un- 

195 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

tender, the innocent meaning of which was that it 
came, as a subject for indifference, money did, easier 
to some people than to others : she made the point in 
fairness, however, that you could n't have told, by 
any too crude transparency of air, what place it held 
for Maud Manningham. She did her worldliness 
with grand proper silences if it might n't better be 
put perhaps that she did her detachment with grand 
occasional pushes. However Susie put it, in truth, 
she was really, in justice to herself, thinking of the 
difference, as favourites of fortune, between her old 
friend and her new. Aunt Maud sat somehow in the 
midst of her money, founded on it and surrounded by 
it, even if with a masterful high manner about it, her 
manner of looking, hard and bright, as if it were n't 
there. Milly, about hers, had no manner at all 
which was possibly, from a point of view, a fault : she 
was at any rate far away on the edge of it, and you 
had n't, as might be said, in order to get at her nature, 
to traverse, by whatever avenue, any piece of her 
property. It was clear, on the other hand, that Mrs. 
Lowder was keeping her wealth as for purposes, im 
aginations, ambitions, that would figure as large, as 
honourably unselfish, on the day they should take 
effect. She would impose her will, but her will would 
be only that a person or two should n't lose a benefit 
by not submitting if they could be made to submit. 
To Milly, as so much younger, such far views could n't 
be imputed: there was nobody she was supposable 
as interested for. It was too soon, since she was n't 
interested for herself. Even the richest woman, at 
her age, lacked motive, and Milly's motive doubtless 

196 



BOOK FOURTH 

had plenty of time to arrive. She was meanwhile 
beautiful, simple, sublime without it whether miss 
ing it and vaguely reaching out for it or not ; and with 
it, for that matter, in the event, would really be these 
things just as much. Only then she might very well 
have, like Aunt Maud, a manner. Such were the 
connexions, at all events, in which the colloquy of our 
two ladies freshly flickered up in which it came 
round that the elder asked the younger if she had 
herself, in the afternoon, named Mr. Densher as an 
acquaintance. 

"Oh no I said nothing of having seen him. I 
remembered," the girl explained, "Mrs. Lowder's 
wish." 

"But that," her friend observed after a moment, 
"was for silence to Kate." 

"Yes but Mrs. Condrip would immediately have 
told Kate." 

"Why so? since she must dislike to talk about 
him." 

"Mrs. Condrip must?" Milly thought. "What 
she would like most is that her sister should be 
brought to think ill of him ; and if anything she can 
tell her will help that " But the girl dropped sud 
denly here, as if her companion would see. 

Her companion's interest, however, was all for 
what she herself saw. "You mean she'll immedi 
ately speak?" Mrs. Stringham gathered that this 
was what Milly meant, but it left still a question. 
"How will it be against him that you know him ?" 

"Oh how can I say? It won't be so much one's 
knowing him as one's having kept it out of sight." 

197 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

"Ah," said Mrs. Stringham as for comfort, "you 
have n't kept it out of sight. Is n't it much rather 
Miss Croy herself who has ? " 

" It is n't my acquaintance with him," Milly smiled, 
"that she has dissimulated." 

" She has dissimulated only her own ? Well then 
the responsibility's hers." 

"Ah but," said the girl, not perhaps with marked 
consequence, "she has a right to do as she likes." 

"Then so, my dear, have you!" smiled Susan 
Shepherd. 

Milly looked at her as if she were almost venerably 
simple, but also as if this were what one loved her for. 
"We're not quarrelling about it, Kate and I, yet." 

"I only meant," Mrs. Stringham explained, "that 
I don't see what Mrs. Condrip would gain." 

" By her being able to tell Kate ? " Milly thought. 
" I only meant that I don't see what I myself should 
gain." 

" But it will have to come out that he knows you 
both some time." 

Milly scarce assented. "Do you mean when he 
comes back ? " 

"He'll find you both here, and he can hardly be 
looked to, I take it, to 'cut* either of you for the sake 
of the other." 

This placed the question at last on a basis more 
distinctly cheerful. "I might get at him somehow 
beforehand," the girl suggested; "I might give him 
what they call here the 'tip' that he's not to know 
me when we meet. Or, better still, I might n't be 
here at all." 

198 



BOOK FOURTH 

" Do you want to run away from him ? " 

It was, oddly enough, an idea Milly seemed half 
to accept. "I don't know what I want to run away 
from!" 

It dispelled, on the spot something, to the elder 
woman's ear, in the sad, sweet sound of it any 
ghost of any need of explaining. The sense was con 
stant for her that their relation might have been afloat, 
like some island of the south, in a great warm sea that 
represented, for every conceivable chance, a margin, 
an outer sphere, of general emotion; and the effect 
of the occurrence of anything in particular was to 
make the sea submerge the island, the margin flood 
the text. The great wave now for a moment swept 
over. " I '11 go anywhere else in the world you like." 

But Milly came up through it. " Dear old Susie 
how I do work you ! " 

"Oh this is nothing yet." 

"No indeed to what it will be." 

"You 're not and it 's vain to pretend," said dear 
old Susie, who had been taking her in, "as sound and 
strong as I insist on having you." 

"Insist, insist the more the better. But the day 
I look as sound and strong as that, you know," Milly 
went on "on that day I shall be just sound and 
strong enough to take leave of you sweetly for ever. 
That's where one is," she continued thus agreeably 
to embroider, "when even one's most 'beaux mo 
ments ' are n't such as to qualify, so far as appearance 
goes, for anything gayer than a handsome cemetery. 
Since I 've lived all these years as if I were dead, I 
shall die, no doubt, as if I were alive which will 

199 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

happen to be as you want me. So, you see," she 
wound up, "you'll never really know where I am. 
Except indeed when I 'm gone ; and then you '11 only 
know where I 'm not." 

" I 'd die for you," said Susan Shepherd after a 
moment. 

"Thanks awfully'! Then stay here for me." 

"But we can't be in London for August, nor for 
many of all these next weeks." 

"Then we '11 go back." 

Susie blenched. " Back to America ? " 

"No, abroad to Switzerland, Italy, anywhere. 
I mean by your staying 'here' for me," Milly pur 
sued, "your staying with me wherever I may be, 
even though we may neither of us know at the time 
where it is. No," she insisted, "I dont know where 
I am, and you never will, and it does n't matter and 
I dare say it's quite true," she broke off, "that every 
thing will have to come out." Her friend would have 
felt of her that she joked about it now, had n't her 
scale from grave to gay been a thing of such un- 
nameable shades that her contrasts were never sharp. 
She made up for failures of gravity by failures of 
mirth ; if she had n't, that is, been at times as earnest 
as might have been liked, so she was certain not to be 
at other times as easy as she would like herself. " I 
must face the music. It is n't at any rate its 'coming 
out/" she added; "it's that Mrs. Condrip would 
put the fact before her to his injury." 

Her companion wondered. "But how to bis?" 

"Why if he pretends to love her !" 

"And does he only 'pretend' ?" 
200 



BOOK FOURTH 

" I mean if, trusted by her in strange countries, he 
forgets her so far as to make up to other people." 

The amendment, however, brought Susie in, as 
with gaiety, for a comfortable end. "Did he make 
up, the false creature, to you?" 

"No but the question is n't of that. It 's of what 
Kate might be made to believe." 

"That, given the fact of his having evidently more 
or less followed up his acquaintance with you, to say 
nothing of your obvious weird charm, he must have 
been all ready if you had a little bit led him on ? " 

Milly neither accepted nor qualified this; she only 
said after a moment and as with a conscious excess of 
the pensive: "No, I don't think she'd quite wish to 
suggest that I made up to him; for that I should have 
had to do so would only bring out his constancy. All 
I mean is," she added and now at last, as with a 
supreme impatience "that her being able to make 
him out a little a person who could give cause for 
jealousy would evidently help her, since she 's afraid 
of him, to do him in her sister's mind a useful ill 
turn." 

Susan Shepherd perceived in this explanation such 
signs of an appetite for motive as would have sat 
gracefully even on one of her own New England 
heroines. It was seeing round several corners; but 
that was what New England heroines did, and it was 
moreover interesting for the moment to make out 
how many her young friend had actually undertaken 
to see round. Finally, too, were n't they braving the 
deeps ? They got their amusement where they could. 
"Isn't it only," she asked, "rather probable she'd 

201 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

see that Kate's knowing him as (what 's the pretty old 
word ?) volage ? " 

"Well?" She hadn't filled out her idea, but 
neither, it seemed, could Milly. 

"Well, might but do what that often does by 
all our blessed little laws and arrangements at 
least: excite Kate's own sentiment instead of de 
pressing it." 

The idea was bright, yet the girl but beautifully 
stared. "Kate's own sentiment? Oh she didn't 
speak of that. I don't think," she added as if she 
had been unconsciously giving a wrong impression, 
"I don't think Mrs. Condrip imagines she's in 
love.'* 

It made Mrs. Stringham stare in turn. "Then 
what's her fear?" 

"Well, only the fact of Mr. Densher's possibly 
himself keeping it up the fear of some final result 
from that" 

"Oh," said Susie, intellectually a little discon 
certed "she looks far ahead ! " 

At this, however, Milly threw off another of her 
sudden vague "sports." "No it's only we who 
do." 

"Well, don't let us be more interested for them 
than they are for themselves ! " 

"Certainly not" the girl promptly assented. A 
certain interest nevertheless remained; she appeared 
to wish to be clear. " It was n't of anything on Kate's 
own part she spoke." 

"You mean she thinks her sister distinctly does n't 
care for him ? " 

202 



BOOK FOURTH 

It was still as if, for an instant, Milly had to be 
sure of what she meant; but there it presently was. 
"If she did care Mrs. Condrip would have told me." 

What Susan Shepherd seemed hereupon for a little 
to wonder was why then they had been talking so. 
"But did you ask her?" 

"Ah no!" 

"Oh! "said Susan Shepherd. 

Milly, however, easily explained that she would n't 
have asked her for the world. 



BOOK FIFTH 



I 



LORD MARK looked at her to-day in particular as if 
to wring from her a confession that she had originally 
done him injustice; and he was entitled to whatever 
there might be in it of advantage or merit that his in 
tention really in a manner took effect : he cared about 
something, after all, sufficiently to make her feel ab 
surdly as if she were confessing all the while it was 
quite the case that neither justice nor injustice was 
what had been in question between them. He had 
presented himself at the hotel, had found her and had 
found Susan Shepherd at home, had been " civil " to 
Susan it was just that shade, and Susan's fancy 
had fondly caught it; and then had come again and 
missed them, and then had come and found them 
once more : besides letting them easily see that if it 
had n't by this time been the end of everything 
which they could feel in the exhausted air, that of the 
season at its last gasp the places they might have 
liked to go to were such as they would have had only 
to mention. Their feeling was or at any rate their 
modest general plea that there was no place they 
would have liked to go to ; there was only the sense of 
finding they liked, wherever they were, the place to 
which they had been brought. Such was highly the 
case as to their current consciousness which could 
be indeed, in an equally eminent degree, but a matter 
of course; impressions this afternoon having by a 

207 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

happy turn of their wheel been gathered for them into 
a splendid cluster, an offering like an armful of the 
rarest flowers. They were in presence of the offering 
they had been led up to it ; and if it had been still 
their habit to look at each other across distances for 
increase of unanimity his hand would have been si 
lently named between them as the hand applied to the 
wheel. He had administered the touch that, under 
light analysis, made the difference the difference of 
their not having lost, as Susie on the spot and at the 
hour phrased it again and again, both for herself and 
for such others as the question might concern, so 
beautiful and interesting an experience ; the difference 
also, in fact, of Mrs. Lowder's not having lost it either, 
though it was superficially with Mrs. Lowder they 
had come, and though it was further with that lady 
that our young woman was directly engaged during 
the half-hour or so of her most agreeably inward re 
sponse to the scene. 

The great historic house had, for Milly, beyond 
terrace and garden, as the centre of an almost ex 
travagantly grand Watteau-com position, a tone as of 
old gold kept "down " by the quality of the air, sum 
mer full-flushed but attuned to the general perfect 
taste. Much, by her measure, for the previous hour, 
appeared, in connexion with this revelation of it, to 
have happened to her a quantity expressed in in 
troductions of charming new people, in walks through 
halls of armour, of pictures, of cabinets, of tapestry, 
of tea-tables, in an assault of reminders that this 
largeness of style was the sign of appointed felicity. 
The largeness of style was the great containing vessel, 

208 



BOOK FIFTH 

while everything else, the pleasant personal affluence, 
the easy murmurous welcome, the honoured age of 
illustrious host and hostess, all at once so distin 
guished and so plain, so public and so shy, became 
but this or that element of the infusion. The elements 
melted together and seasoned the draught, the es 
sence of which might have struck the girl as distilled 
into the small cup of iced coffee she had vaguely ac 
cepted from somebody, while a fuller flood somehow 
kept bearing her up all the freshness of response of 
her young life, the freshness of the first and only 
prime. What had perhaps brought on just now a 
kind of climax was the fact of her appearing to make 
out, through Aunt Maud, what was really the matter. 
It could n't be less than a climax for a poor shaky 
maiden to find it put to her of a sudden that she her 
self was the matter for that was positively what, 
on Mrs. Lowder's part, it came to. Everything was 
great, of course, in great pictures, and it was doubt 
less precisely a part of the brilliant life since the 
brilliant life, as one had faintly figured it, just was 
humanly led that all impressions within its area 
partook of its brilliancy; still, letting that pass, it 
fairly stamped an hour as with the official seal for one 
to be able to take in so comfortably one's companion's 
broad blandness. "You must stay among us you 
must stay; anything else is impossible and ridiculous; 
you don't know yet, no doubt you can't; but you 
will soon enough : you can stay in any position." It 
had been as the murmurous consecration to follow 
the murmurous welcome; and even if it were but part 
of Aunt Maud's own spiritual ebriety for the dear 

209 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

woman, one could see, was spiritually "keeping" the 
day it served to Milly, then and afterwards, as a 
high-water mark of the imagination. 

It was to be the end of the short parenthesis which 
had begun but the other day at Lancaster Gate with 
Lord Mark's informing her that she was a "success" 
the key thus again struck ; and though no distinct, 
no numbered revelations had crowded in, there had, 
as we have seen, been plenty of incident for the space 
and the time. There had been thrice as much, and all 
gratuitous and genial if, in portions, not exactly 
hitherto the revelation as three unprepared weeks 
could have been expected to produce. Mrs. Lowder 
had improvised a "rush" for them, but out of ele 
ments, as Milly was now a little more freely aware, 
somewhat roughly combined. Therefore if at this 
very instant she had her reasons for thinking of the 
parenthesis as about to close reasons completely 
personal she had on behalf of her companion a 
divination almost as deep. The parenthesis would 
close with this admirable picture, but the admirable 
picture still would show Aunt Maud as not absolutely 
sure either if she herself were destined to remain in it. 
What she was doing, Milly might even not have es 
caped seeming to see, was to talk herself into a sub- 
limer serenity while she ostensibly talked Milly. It 
was fine, the girl fully felt, the way she did talk her, 
little as, at bottom, our young woman needed it or 
found other persuasions at fault. It was in particular 
during the minutes of her grateful absorption of iced 
coffee qualified by a sharp doubt of her wisdom 
that she most had in view Lord Mark's relation to her 

210 



BOOK FIFTH 

being there, or at least to the question of her being 
amused at it. It would n't have taken much by the 
end of five minutes quite to make her feel that this 
relation was charming. It might, once more, simply 
have been that everything, anything, was charming 
when one was so justly and completely charmed; but, 
frankly, she had n't supposed anything so serenely 
sociable could settle itself between them as the 
friendly understanding that was at present somehow 
in the air. They were, many of them together, near 
the marquee that had been erected on a stretch of 
sward as a temple of refreshment and that happened 
to have the property which was all to the good 
of making Milly think of a "durbar"; her iced coffee 
had been a consequence of this connexion, through 
which, further, the bright company scattered about 
fell thoroughly into place. Certain of its members 
might have represented the contingent of "native 
princes " familiar, but scarce the less grandly gre 
garious term ! and Lord Mark would have done 
for one of these even though for choice he but pre 
sented himself as a supervisory friend of the family. 
The Lancaster Gate family, he clearly intended, in 
which he included its American recruits, and in 
cluded above all Kate Croy a young person 
blessedly easy to take care of. She knew people, and 
people knew her, and she was the handsomest thing 
there this last a declaration made by Milly, in a 
>rt of soft midsummer madness, a straight skylark- 
light of charity, to Aunt Maud. 

Kate had for her new friend's eyes the extraor 
dinary and attaching property of appearing at a given 

211 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

moment to show as a beautiful stranger, to cut her 
connexions and lose her identity, letting the imagina 
tion for the time make what it would of them make 
her merely a person striking from afar, more and 
more pleasing as one watched, but who was above all 
a subject for curiosity. Nothing could have given her, 
as a party to a relation, a greater freshness than this 
sense, which sprang up at its own hours, of one's being 
as curious about her as if one had n't known her. It 
had sprung up, we have gathered, as soon as Milly 
had seen her after hearing from Mrs. Stringham of 
her knowledge of Merton Densher; she had looked 
then other and, as Milly knew the real critical mind 
would call it, more objective; and our young woman 
had foreseen it of her on the spot that she would often 
look so again. It was exactly what she was doing this 
afternoon; and Milly, who had amusements of 
thought that were like the secrecies of a little girl 
playing with dolls when conventionally "too big," 
could almost settle to the game of what one would 
suppose her, how one would place her, if one did n't 
know her. She became thus, intermittently, a figure 
conditioned only by the great facts of aspect, a figure 
to be waited for, named and fitted. This was doubt 
less but a way of feeling that it was of her essence to 
be peculiarly what the occasion, whatever it might be, 
demanded when its demand was highest. There were 
probably ways enough, on these lines, for such a con 
sciousness; another of them would be for instance 
to say that she was made for great social uses. Milly 
was n't wholly sure she herself knew what great 
social uses might be unless, as a good example, 

212 



BOOK FIFTH 

to exert just that sort of glamour in just that sort of 
frame were one of them : she would have fallen back 
on knowing sufficiently that they existed at all events 
for her friend. It imputed a primness, all round, to be 
reduced but to saying, by way of a translation of one's 
amusement, that she was always so right since 
that, too often, was what the insup portables them 
selves were; yet it was, in overflow to Aunt Maud, 
what she had to content herself withal save for the 
lame enhancement of saying she was lovely. It served, 
despite everything, the purpose, strengthened the 
bond that for the time held the two ladies together, 
distilled in short its drop of rose-colour for Mrs. Low- 
der's own view. That was really the view Milly had, 
for most of the rest of the occasion, to give herself to 
immediately taking in ; but it did n't prevent the con 
tinued play of those swift cross-lights, odd beguile- 
ments of the mind, at which we have already glanced. 
Mrs. Lowder herself found it enough simply to 
reply, in respect to Kate, that she was indeed a luxury 
to take about the world : she expressed no more sur 
prise than that at her " Tightness" to-day. Did n't it 
by this time sufficiently shine out that it was precisely 
as the very luxury she was proving that she had, from 
far back, been appraised and waited for ? Crude 
elation, however, might be kept at bay, and the cir 
cumstance none the less made clear that they were 
all swimming together in the blue. It came back to 
Lord Mark again, as he seemed slowly to pass and 
repass and conveniently to linger before them; he 
was personally the note of the blue like a suspended 
skein of silk within reach of the broiderer's hand. 

213 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

Aunt Maud's free-moving shuttle took a length of 
him at rhythmic intervals ; and one of the accessory 
truths that flickered across to Milly was that he ever 
so consentingly knew he was being worked in. This 
was almost like an understanding with her at Mrs. 
Lowder's expense, which she would have none of; 
she would n't for the world have had him make any 
such point as that he would n't have launched them 
at Matcham or whatever it was he had done 
only for Aunt Maud's beaux ycux. What he had done, 
it would have been guessable, was something he had 
for some time been desired in vain to do; and what 
they were all now profiting by was a change com 
paratively sudden, the cessation of hope delayed. 
What had caused the cessation easily showed itself as 
none of Milly's business ; and she was luckily, for that 
matter, in no real danger of hearing from him directly 
that her individual weight had been felt in the scale. 
Why then indeed was it an effect of his diffused but 
subdued participation that he might absolutely have 
been saying to her "Yes, let the dear woman take 
her own tone " ? " Since she 's here she may stay," he 
might have been adding "for whatever she can 
make of it. But you and I are different." Milly knew 
she was different in truth his own difference was 
his own affair; but also she knew that after all, even 
at their distinctest, Lord Mark's "tips" in this line 
would be tacit. He practically placed her it came 
round again to that under no obligation whatever. 
It was a matter of equal ease, moreover, her letting 
Mrs. Lowder take a tone. She might have taken 
twenty they would have spoiled nothing. 

214 



BOOK FIFTH 

"You must stay on with us; you can, you know, 
in any position you like; any, any, any, my dear 
child" and her emphasis went deep. "You must 
make your home with us ; and it 's really open to you 
to make the most beautiful one in the world. You 
must n't be under a mistake under any of any sort; 
and you must let us all think for you a little, take care 
of you and watch over you. Above all you must help 
me with Kate, and you must stay a little for her ; no 
thing for a long time has happened to me so good as 
that you and she should have become friends. It 's 
beautiful; it's great; it's everything. What makes it 
perfect is that it should have come about through our 
dear delightful Susie, restored to me, after so many 
years, by such a miracle. No that 's more charm 
ing to me than even your hitting it off with Kate. God 
has been good to one positively; for I could n't, at 
my age, have made a new friend undertaken, I 
mean, out of whole cloth, the real thing. It's like 
changing one's bankers after fifty : one does n't do 
that. That's why Susie has been kept for me, as you 
seem to keep people in your wonderful country, in 
lavender and pink paper coming back at last as 
straight as out of a fairy-tale and with you as an at 
tendant fairy." Milly hereupon replied appreciat 
ively that such a description of herself made her feel 
as if pink paper were her dress and lavender its trim 
ming; but Aunt Maud was n't to be deterred by a 
weak joke from keeping it up. The young person 
under her protection could feel besides that she kept 
it up in perfect sincerity. She was somehow at this 
hour a very happy woman, and a part of her happi- 

215 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

ness might precisely have been that her affections and 
her views were moving as never before in concert. 
Unquestionably she loved Susie; but she also loved 
Kate and loved Lord Mark, loved their funny old 
host and hostess, loved every one within range, down 
to the very servant who came to receive Milly's empty 
ice-plate down, for that matter, to Milly herself, 
who was, while she talked, really conscious of the en 
veloping flap of a protective mantle, a shelter with the 
weight of an Eastern carpet. An Eastern carpet, for 
wishing-purposes of one's own, was a thing to be on 
rather than under; still, however, if the girl should 
fail of breath it would n't be, she could feel, by Mrs. 
Lowder's fault. One of the last things she was after 
wards to recall of this was Aunt Maud's going on to 
say that she and Kate must stand together because 
together they could do anything. It was for Kate of 
course she was essentially planning; but the plan, en 
larged and uplifted now, somehow required Milly's 
prosperity too for its full operation, just as Milly's 
prosperity at the same time involved Kate's. It was 
nebulous yet, it was slightly confused, but it was com 
prehensive and genial, and it made our young woman 
understand things Kate had said of her aunt's pos 
sibilities, as well as characterisations that had fallen 
from Susan Shepherd. One of the most frequent on 
the lips of the latter had been that dear Maud was a 
, grand natural force. 



II 



A PRIME reason, we must add, why sundry impres 
sions were not to be fully present to the girl till later 
on was that they yielded at this stage, with an effect 
of sharp supersession, to a detached quarter of an 
hour her only one with Lord Mark. " Have you 
seen the picture in the house, the beautiful one that 's 
so like you ? " he was asking that as he stood be 
fore her; having come up at last with his smooth 
intimation that any wire he had pulled and yet wanted 
not to remind her of was n't quite a reason for his 
having no joy at all. 

"I've been through rooms and I've seen pictures. 
But if I 'm ' like ' anything so beautiful as most of 
them seemed to me ! " It needed in short for Milly 
some evidence which he only wanted to supply. She 
was the image of the wonderful Bronzino, which she 
must have a look at on every ground. He had thus 
called her off and led her away; the more easily that 
the house within was above all what had already 
drawn round her its mystic circle. Their progress 
meanwhile was not of the straightest; it was an ad 
vance, without haste, through innumerable natural 
pauses and soft concussions, determined for the most 
part by the appearance before them of ladies and 
gentlemen, singly, in couples, in clusters, who brought 
them to a stand with an inveterate "I say, Mark." 
What they said she never quite made out; it was their 

217 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

all so domestically knowing him, and his knowing 
them, that mainly struck her, while her impression, 
for the rest, was but of fellow strollers more vaguely 
afloat than themselves, supernumeraries mostly a 
little battered, whether as jaunty males or as ostens 
ibly elegant women. They might have been moving 
a good deal by a momentum that had begun far back, 
but they were still brave and personable, still war 
ranted for continuance as long again, and they gave 
her, in especial collectively, a sense of pleasant voices, 
pleasanter than those of actors, of friendly empty 
words and kind lingering eyes that took somehow 
pardonable liberties. The lingering eyes looked her 
over, the lingering eyes were what went, in almost 
confessed simplicity, with the pointless "I say, 
Mark " ; and what was really most flagrant of all was 
that, as a pleasant matter of course, if she did n't 
mind, he seemed to suggest their letting people, poor 
dear things, have the benefit of her. 

The odd part was that he made her herself believe, 
for amusement, in the benefit, measured by him in 
mere manner for wonderful, of a truth, was, as a 
means of expression, his slightness of emphasis 
that her present good nature conferred. It was, as 
she could easily see, a mild common carnival of good 
nature a mass of London people together, of sorts 
and ; sorts, but who mainly knew each other and who, 
in their way, did, no doubt, confess to curiosity. It 
had gone round that she was there; questions about 
her would be passing; the easiest thing was to run the 
gauntlet with him just as the easiest thing was in 
fact to trust him generally. Could n't she know for 

218 



BOOK FIFTH 

herself, passively, how little harm they meant her ? 
to that extent that it made no difference whether or 
not he introduced them. The strangest thing of all 
for Milly was perhaps the uplifted assurance and in 
difference with which she could simply give back the 
particular bland stare that appeared in such cases to 
mark civilisation at its highest. It was so little her 
fault, this oddity of what had "gone round" about 
her, that to accept it without question might be as 
good a way as another of feeling life. It was inevitable 
to supply the probable description that of the 
awfully rich yourtg American who was so queer to be 
hold, but nice, by all accounts, to know; and she had 
really but one instant of speculation as to fables or 
fantasies perchance originally launched. She asked 
herself once only if Susie could, inconceivably, have 
been blatant about her; for the question, on the spot, 
was really blown away for ever. She knew in fact on 
the spot and with sharpness just why she had 
"elected" Susan Shepherd: she had had from the 
first hour the conviction of her being precisely the 
person in the world least possibly a trumpeter. So it 
was n't their fault, it was n't their fault, and anything 
might happen that would, and everything now again 
melted together, and kind eyes were always kind eyes 
if it were never to be worse than that ! She got with 
her companion into the house; they brushed, bene 
ficently, past all their accidents. The Bronzino was, 
it appeared, deep within, and the long afternoon 
light lingered for them on patches of old colour and 
waylaid them, as they went, in nooks and opening 
vistas. 

219 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

It was all the while for Milly as if Lord Mark had 
really had something other than this spoken pretext 
in view; as if there were something he wanted to say 
to her and were only consciously yet not awkwardly, 
just delicately hanging fire. At the same time it 
was as if the thing had practically been said by the 
moment they came in sight of the picture; since 
what it appeared to amount to was "Do let a fellow 
who is n't a fool take care of you a little." The thing 
somehow, with the aid of the Bronzino, was done; it 
had n't seemed to matter to her before if he were a 
fool or no; but now, just where they were, she liked 
his not being; and it was all moreover none the worse 
for coming back to something of the same sound as 
Mrs. Lowder's so recent reminder. She too wished 
to take care of her and was n't it, a pen pres, what 
all the people with the kind eyes were wishing ? Once 
more things melted together the beauty and the 
history and the facility and the splendid midsummer 
glow : it was a sort of magnificent maximum, the pink 
dawn of an apotheosis coming so curiously soon. 
What in fact befell was that, as she afterwards made 
out, it was Lord Mark who said nothing in particular 
it was she herself who said all. She could n't help 
that it came ; and the reason it came was that she 
found herself, for the first moment, looking at the 
mysterious portrait through tears. Perhaps it was her 
tears that made it just then so strange and fair as 
wonderful as he had said : the face of a young woman, 
all splendidly drawn, down to the hands, and splen 
didly dressed; a face almost livid in hue, yet hand 
some in sadness and crowned with a mass of hair, 

220 



BOOK FIFTH 

rolled back and high, that must, before fading with 
time, have had a family resemblance to her own. The 
lady in question, at all events, with her slightly 
Michael-angelesque squareness, her eyes of other 
days, her full lips, her long neck, her recorded jewels, 
her brocaded and wasted reds, was a very great per 
sonage only unaccompanied by a joy. And she 
was dead, dead, dead. Milly recognised her exactly 
in words that had nothing to do with her. "I shall 
never be better than this." 

He smiled for her at the portrait. "Than she? 
You 'd scarce need to be better, for surely that 's well 
enough. But you are, one feels, as it happens, better; 
because, splendid as she is, one doubts if she was 
good." 

He had n't understood. She was before the picture, 
but she had turned to him, and she did n't care if for 
the minute he noticed her tears. It was probably as 
good a moment as she should ever have with him. 
It was perhaps as good a moment as she should have 
with any one, or have in any connexion whatever. " I 
mean that everything this afternoon has been too 
beautiful, and that perhaps everything together will 
never be so right again. I'm very glad therefore 
you 've been a part of it." 

Though he still did n't understand her he was as 
nice as if he had ; he did n't ask for insistence, and 
that was just a part of his looking after her. He 
simply protected her now from herself, and there was 
a world of practice in it. "Oh we must talk about 
these things ! " 

O 

Ah they had already done that, she knew, as much 
221 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

as she ever would ; and she was shaking her head at 
her pale sister the next moment with a world, on her 
side, of slowness. "I wish I could see the resem 
blance. Of course her complexion's green," she 
laughed; "but mine's several shades greener." 

"It's down to the very hands," said Lord Mark. 

"Her hands are large," Milly went on, "but mine 
are larger. Mine are huge." 

"Oh you go her, all round, 'one better' which 
is just what I said. But you're a pair. You must 
surely catch it," he added as if it were important to 
his character as a serious man not to appear to have 
invented his plea. 

" I don't know one never knows one's self. It 's 
a funny fancy, and I don't imagine it would have 
occurred " 

"I see it has occurred" he had already taken 
her up. She had her back, as she faced the picture, to 
one of the doors of the room, which was open, and 
on her turning as he spoke she saw that they were 
in the presence of three other persons, also, as ap 
peared, interested enquirers. Kate Croy was one of 
these; Lord Mark had just become aware of her, and 
she, all arrested, had immediately seen, and made 
the best of it, that she was far from being first in the 
field. She had brought a lady and a gentleman to 
whom she wished to show what Lord Mark was show 
ing Milly, and he took her straightway as a re-enforce 
ment. Kate herself had spoken, however, before he 
had had time to tell her so. 

" You had noticed too ? " she smiled at him with 
out looking at Milly. "Then I'm not original 

222 



BOOK FIFTH 

which one always hopes one has been. But the like 
ness is so great." And now she looked at Milly 
for whom again it was, all round indeed, kind, kind 
eyes. " Yes, there you are, my dear, if you want to 
know. And you're superb." She took now but a 
glance at the picture, though it was enough to make 
her question to her friends not too straight. " Is n't 
she superb ? " 

"I brought Miss Theale," Lord Mark explained 
to the latter, "quite off my own bat." 

"I wanted Lady Aldershaw," Kate continued to 
Milly, "to see for herself." 

"Les grands esprits se rencontrent!" laughed her 
attendant gentleman, a high but slightly stooping, 
shambling and wavering person who represented 
urbanity by the liberal aid of certain prominent front 
teeth and whom Milly vaguely took for some sort of 
great man. 

Lady Aldershaw meanwhile looked at Milly quite 
as if Milly had been the Bronzino and the Bronzino 
only Milly. "Superb, superb. Of course I had 
noticed you. It is wonderful," she went on with her 
back to the picture, but with some other eagerness 
which Milly felt gathering, felt directing her motions 
now. It was enough they were introduced, and 
she was saying "I wonder if you could give us the 
pleasure of coming " She wasn't fresh, for she 
was n't young, even though she denied at every pore 
that she was old; but she was vivid and much be 
jewelled for the midsummer daylight; and she was all 
in the palest pinks and blues. She did n't think, at 
this pass, that she could "come" anywhere Milly 

223 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

didn't; and she already knew that somehow Lord 
Mark was saving her from the question. He had in 
terposed, taking the words out of the lady's mouth 
and not caring at all if the lady minded. That was 
clearly the right way to treat her at least for him ; 
as she had only dropped, smiling, and then turned 
away with him. She had been dealt with it would 
have done an enemy good. The gentleman still stood, 
a little helpless, addressing himself to the intention of 
urbanity as if it were a large loud whistle; he had been 
sighing sympathy, in his way, while the lady made 
her overture; and Milly had in this light soon arrived 
at their identity. They were Lord and Lady Alder- 
shaw, and the wife was the clever one. A minute or 
two later the situation had changed, and she knew it 
afterwards to have been by the subtle operation of 
Kate. She was herself saying that she was afraid she 
must go now if Susie could be found; but she was 
sitting down on the nearest seat to say it. The pro 
spect, through opened doors, stretched before her into 
other rooms, down the vista of which Lord Mark was 
strolling with Lady Aldershaw, who, close to him 
and much intent, seemed to show from behind as 
peculiarly expert. Lord Aldershaw, for his part, had 
been left in the middle of the room, while Kate, with 
her back to him, was standing before her with much 
sweetness of manner. The sweetness was all for her ; 
she had the sense of the poor gentleman's having 
somehow been handled as Lord Mark had handled 
his wife. He dangled there, he shambled a little; then 
he bethought himself of the Bronzino, before which, 
with his eye-glass, he hovered. It drew from him an 

224 



BOOK FIFTH 

odd vague sound, not wholly distinct from a grunt, 
and a " Humph most remarkable ! " which lighted 
Kate's face with amusement. The next moment he 
had creaked away over polished floors after the oth 
ers and Milly was feeling as if she had been rude. 
But Lord Aldershaw was in every way a detail and 
Kate was saying to her that she hoped she was n't 
ill. 

Thus it was that, aloft there in the great gilded 
historic chamber and the presence of the pale person 
age on the wall, whose eyes all the while seemed en 
gaged with her own, she found herself suddenly sunk 
in something quite intimate and humble and to which 
these grandeurs were strange enough witnesses. It 
had come up, in the form in which she had had to 
accept it, all suddenly, and nothing about it, at the 
same time, was more marked than that she had in a 
manner plunged into it to escape from something 
else. Something else, from her first vision of her 
friend's appearance three minutes before, had been 
present to her even through the call made by the 
others on her attention; something that was per 
versely there, she was more and more uncomfortably 
finding, at least for the first moments and by some 
spring of its own, with every renewal of their meeting. 
" Is it the way she looks to him? " she asked herself 
the perversity being how she kept in remembrance 
that Kate was known to him. It was n't a fault in 
Kate nor in him assuredly ; and she had a horror, 
being generous and tender, of treating either of them 
as if it had been. To Densher himself she could n't 
make it up he was too far away; but her secondary 

225 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

impulse was to make it up to Kate. She did so now 
with a strange soft energy the impulse immediately 
acting. "Will you render me to-morrow a great serv 
ice ? " 

"Any service, dear child, in the world." 

" But it 's a secret one nobody must know. I 
must be wicked and false about it." 

"Then I 'm your woman," Kate smiled, "for that 's 
the kind of thing I love. Do let us do something bad. 
You're impossibly without sin, you know." 

Milly's eyes, on this, remained a little with their 
companion's. "Ah I shan't perhaps come up to your 
idea. It's only to deceive Susan Shepherd." 

"Oh!" said Kate as if this were indeed mild. 

" But thoroughly as thoroughly as I can." 

"And for cheating," Kate asked, "my powers will 
contribute ? Well, I '11 do my best for you." In ac 
cordance with which it was presently settled between 
them that Milly should have the aid and comfort of 
her presence for a visit to Sir Luke Strett. Kate had 
needed a minute for enlightenment, and it was quite 
grand for her comrade that this name should have 
said nothing to her. To Milly herself it had for some 
days been secretly saying much. The personage in 
question was, as she explained, the greatest of medical 
lights if she had got hold, as she believed (and she 
had used to this end the wisdom of the serpent) of the 
right, the special man. She had written to him three 
days before, and he had named her an hour, eleven- 
twenty; only it had come to her on the eve that 
she could n't go alone. Her maid on the other hand 
was n't good enough, and Susie was too good. Kate 

226 



BOOK FIFTH 

had listened above all with high indulgence. "And 
I 'm betwixt and between, happy thought ! Too good 
for what ? " 

Milly thought. "Why to be worried if it's nothing. 
And to be still more worried I mean before she 
need be if it is n't." 

Kate fixed her with deep eyes. "What in the world 
is the matter with you ?" It had inevitably a sound 
of impatience, as if it had been a challenge really to 
produce something; so that Milly felt her for the 
moment only as a much older person, standing above 
her a little, doubting the imagined ailments, suspect 
ing the easy complaints, of ignorant youth. It some 
what checked her, further, that the matter with her 
was what exactly as yet she wanted knowledge about; 
and she immediately declared, for conciliation, that 
if she were merely fanciful Kate would see her put to 
shame. Kate vividly uttered, in return, the hope that, 
since she could come out and be so charming, could 
so universally dazzle and interest, she was n't all the 
while in distress or in anxiety did n't believe her 
self to be in any degree seriously menaced. "Well, I 
want to make out to make out!" was all that this 
consistently produced. To which Kate made clear 
answer: "Ah then let us by all means!" 

"I thought," Milly said, "you'd like to help me. 
But I must ask you, please, for the promise of ab 
solute silence." 

"And how, if you are ill, can your friends remain 
in ignorance ? " 

"Well, if I am it must of course finally come out. 
But I can go for a long time." Milly spoke with her 

227 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

r 

eyes again on her painted sister's almost as if under 
their suggestion. She still sat there before Kate, yet 
not without a light in her face. "That will be one of 
my advantages. I think I could die without its being 
noticed." 

"You're an extraordinary young woman," her 
friend, visibly held by her, declared at last. "What 
a remarkable time to talk of such things ! " 

"Well, we won't talk, precisely" - Milly got her 
self together again. "I only wanted to make sure of 
you." 

"Here in the midst of !" But Kate could only 
sigh for wonder almost visibly too for pity. 

It made a moment during which her companion 
waited on her word ; partly as if from a yearning, shy 
but deep, to have her case put to her just as Kate was 
struck by it; partly as if the hint of pity were already 
giving a sense to her whimsical "shot," with Lord 
Mark, at Mrs. Lowder's first dinner. Exactly this 
the handsome girl's compassionate manner, her 
friendly descent from her own strength was what 
she had then foretold. She took Kate up as if posi 
tively for the deeper taste of it. " Here in the midst of 
what?" 

" Of everything. There 's nothing you can't have. 
There 's nothing you can't do." 

"So Mrs. Lowder tells me." 

It just kept Kate's eyes fixed as possibly for more 
of that; then, however, without waiting, she went on. 
"We all adore you." 

"You're wonderful you dear things!" Milly 
laughed. 

228 



BOOK FIFTH 

"No, it's you" And Kate seemed struck with the 
real interest of it. "In three weeks !" 

Milly kept it up. "Never were people on such 
terms! All the more reason," she added, "that I 
should n't needlessly torment you." 

"But me? what becomes of me?" said Kate. 

" Well, you " - Milly thought " if there 's any 
thing to bear you '11 bear it." 

<k But I wont bear it ! " said Kate Croy . 

"Oh yes you will: all the same! You'll pity me 
awfully, but you '11 help me very much. And I abso 
lutely trust you. So there we are." There they were 
then, since Kate had so to take it; but there, Milly 
felt, she herself in particular was; for it was just the 
point at which she had wished to arrive. She had 
wanted to prove to herself that she did n't horribly 
blame her friend for any reserve; and what better 
proof could there be than this quite special confid 
ence ? If she desired to show Kate that she really 
believed Kate liked her, how could she show it more 
than by asking her help ? 



Ill 



WHAT it really came to, on the morrow, this first time 
the time Kate went with her was that the great 
man had, a little, to excuse himself; had, by a rare 
accident for he kept his consulting-hours in gen 
eral rigorously free but ten minutes to give her ; 
ten mere minutes which he yet placed at her service 
in a manner that she admired still more than she 
could meet it: so crystal-clean the great empty cup 
of attention that he set between them on the table. 
He was presently to jump into his carriage, but he 
promptly made the point that he must see her again, 
see her within a day or two; and he named for her at 
once another hour easing her off beautifully too 
even then in respect to her possibly failing of justice 
to her errand. The minutes affected her in fact as ebb 
ing more swiftly than her little army of items could 
muster, and they would probably have gone without 
her doing much more than secure another hearing, 
had n't it been for her sense, at the last, that she had 
gained above all an impression. The impression 
all the sharp growth of the final few moments was 
neither more nor less than that she might make, of a 
sudden, in quite another world, another straight 
friend, and a friend who would moreover be, wonder 
fully, the most appointed, the most thoroughly ad 
justed of the whole collection, inasmuch as he would 
somehow wear the character scientifically, ponder- 

230 



BOOK FIFTH 

ably, proveably not just loosely and sociably. 
Literally, furthermore, it would n't really depend on 
herself, Sir Luke Strett's friendship, in the least : per 
haps what made her most stammer and pant was its 
thus queerly coming over her that she might find she 
had interested him even beyond her intention, find 
she was in fact launched in some current that would 
lose itself in the sea of science. At the same time that 
she struggled, however, she also surrendered; there 
was a moment at which she almost dropped the form 
of stating, of explaining, and threw herself, without 
violence, only with a supreme pointless quaver that 
had turned the next instant to an intensity of inter 
rogative stillness, upon his general good will. His large 
settled face, though firm, was not, as she had thought 
at first, hard ; he looked, in the oddest manner, to her 
fancy, half like a general and half like a bishop, and 
she was soon sure that, within some such handsome 
range, what it would show her would be what was 
good, what was best for her. She had established, in 
other words, in this time-saving way, a relation with 
it; and the relation was the special trophy that, for the 
hour, she bore off. It was like an absolute possession, 
a new resource altogether, something done up in the 
softest silk and tucked away under the arm of memory. 
She had n't had it when she went in, and she had it 
when she came out; she had it there under her cloak, 
but dissimulated, invisibly carried, when smiling, 
smiling, she again faced Kate Croy. That young lady 
had of course awaited her in another room, where, as 
the great man was to absent himself, no one else was 
in attendance; and she rose for her with such a face 

231 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

of sympathy as might have graced the vestibule of a 
dentist. "Is it out ?" she seemed to ask as if it had 
been a question of a tooth ; and Milly indeed kept her 
in no suspense at all. 

"He's a dear. I'm to come again." 

" But what does he say ? " 

Milly was almost gay. "That I'm not to worry 
about anything in the world, and that if I '11 be a good 
girl and do exactly what he tells me he '11 take care of 
me for ever and ever." 

Kate wondered as if things scarce fitted. "But 
does he allow then that you 're ill ? " 

"I don't know what he allows, and I don't care. 
I shall know, and whatever it is it will be enough. 
He knows all about me, and I like it. I don't hate it 
a bit." 

Still, however, Kate stared. "But could he, in so 
few mimites, ask you enough ? " 

"He asked me scarcely anything he doesn't 
need to do anything so stupid," Milly said. "He can 
tell. He knows," she repeated; "and when I go back 
for he '11 have thought me over a little it will be 
all right." 

Kate after a moment made the best of this. "Then 
when are we to come ? " 

It just pulled her friend up, for even while they 
talked at least it was one of the reasons she stood 
there suddenly, irrelevantly, in the light of her other 
identity, the identity she would have for Mr. Densher. 
This was always, from one instant to another, an in 
calculable light, which, though it might go off faster 
than it came on, necessarily disturbed. It sprang, 

232 



BOOK FIFTH 

with a perversity all its own, from the fact that, with 
the lapse of hours and days, the chances themselves 
that made for his being named continued so oddly to 
fail. There were twenty, there were fifty, but none of 
them turned up. This in particular was of course not 
a juncture at which the least of them would naturally 
be present; but it would make, none the less, Milly 
saw, another day practically all stamped with avoid 
ance. She saw in a quick glimmer, and with it all 
Kate's unconsciousness; and then she shook off the 
obsession. But it had lasted long enough to qualify 
her response. No, she had shown Kate how she 
trusted her; and that, for loyalty, would somehow do. 
"Oh, dear thing, now that the ice is broken I shan't 
trouble you again." 

"You '11 come alone?" 

"Without a scruple. Only I shall ask you, please, 
for your absolute discretion still." 

Outside, at a distance from the door, on the wide 
pavement of the great contiguous square, they had to 
wait again while their carriage, which Milly had kept, 
completed a further turn of exercise, engaged in by 
the coachman for reasons of his own. The footman 
was there and had indicated that he was making the 
circuit; so Kate went on while they stood. " But don't 
you ask a good deal, darling, in proportion to what 
you give ? " 

This pulled Milly up still shorter so short in fact 
that she yielded as soon as she had taken it in. But 
she continued to smile. "I see. Then you can tell." 

"I don't want to 'tell,'" said Kate. "I'll be as 
silent as the tomb if I can only have the truth from 

233 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

you. All I want is that you should n't keep from me 
how you find out that you really are." 

"Well then I won't ever. But you see for your 
self," Milly went on, "how I really am. I 'm satisfied. 
I'm happy." 

Kate looked at her long. "I believe you like it. 
The way things turn out for you ! " 

Milly met her look now without a thought of any 
thing but the spoken. She had ceased to be Mr. 
Densher's image; she stood for nothing but herself, 
and she was none the less fine. Still, still, what had 
passed was a fair bargain and it would do. "Of 
course I like it. I feel I can't otherwise describe 
it as if I had been on my knees to the priest. I 've 
confessed and I 've been absolved. It has been lifted 
off." 

Kate's eyes never quitted her. " He must have liked 
you." 

"Oh doctors!" Milly said. "But I hope," she 
added, "he didn't like me too much." Then as if 
to escape a little from her friend's deeper sounding, or 
as impatient for the carnage, not yet in sight, her 
eyes, turning away, took in the great stale square. 
As its staleness, however, was but that of London 
fairly fatigued, the late hot London with its dance 
all danced and its story all told, the air seemed a thing 
of blurred pictures and mixed 'echoes, and an impres 
sion met the sense an impression that broke the 
next moment through the girl's tightened lips. "Oh 
it 's a beautiful big world, and every one, yes, every 
one !" It presently brought her back to Kate, and 
she hoped she did n't actually look as much as if she 

234 



BOOK FIFTH 

were crying as she must have looked to Lord Mark 
among the portraits at Matcham. 

Kate at all events understood. "Everyone wants 
to be so nice?" 

"So nice," said the grateful Milly. 

"Oh," Kate laughed, "we'll pull you through! 
And won't you now bring Mrs. Stringham ?" 

But Milly after an instant was again clear about 
that. "Not till I've seen him once more." 

She was to have found this preference, two days 
later, abundantly justified; and yet when, in prompt 
accordance with what had passed between them, she 
reappeared before her distinguished friend that 
character having for him in the interval built itself 
up still higher the first thing he asked her was 
whether she had been accompanied. She told him, 
on this, straightway, everything; completely free at 
present from her first embarrassment, disposed even 
as she felt she might become to undue volubility, 
and conscious moreover of no alarm from his thus 
perhaps wishing she had not come alone. It was 
exactly as if, in the forty-eight hours that had passed, 
her acquaintance with him had somehow increased 
and his own knowledge in particular received mys 
terious additions. They had been together, before, 
scarce ten minutes; but the relation, the one the ten 
minutes had so beautifully created, was there to take 
straight up : and this not, on his own part, from mere 
professional heartiness, mere bedside manner, which 
she would have disliked much rather from a quiet 
pleasant air in him of having positively asked about 
her, asked here and asked there and found out. Of 

235 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

course he could n't in the least have asked, or have 
wanted to; there was no source of information to his 
hand, and he had really needed none : he had found 
out simply by his genius and found out, she meant, 
literally everything. Now she knew not only that she 
did n't dislike this the state of being found out 
about; but that on the contrary it was truly what 
she had come for, and that for the time at least it 
would give her something firm to stand on. She 
struck herself as aware, aware as she had never been, 
of really not having had from the beginning anything 
firm. It would be strange for the firmness to come, 
after all, from her learning in these agreeable condi 
tions that she was in some way doomed ; but above all 
it would prove how little she had hitherto had to hold 
her up. If she was now to be held up by the mere pro 
cess since that was perhaps on the cards of be 
ing let down, this would only testify in turn to her queer 
little history. That sense of loosely rattling had been 
no process at all ; and it was ridiculously true that her 
thus sitting there to see her life put into the scales 
represented her first approach to the taste of orderly 
living. Such was Milly's romantic version that her 
life, especially by the fact of this second interview, 
was put into the scales; and just the best part of the 
relation established might have been, for that matter, 
that the great grave charming man knew, had known 
at once, that it was romantic, and in that measure 
allowed for it. Her only doubt, her only fear, was 
whether he perhaps would n't even take advantage of 
her being a little romantic to treat her as romantic 
altogether. This doubtless was her danger with him; 

236 



BOOK FIFTH 

but she should see, and dangers in general meanwhile 
dropped and dropped. 

The very place, at the end of a few minutes, the 
commodious " handsome " room, far back in the fine 
old house, soundless from position, somewhat sallow 
with years of celebrity, somewhat sombre even at 
midsummer the very place put on for her a look of 
custom and use, squared itself solidly round her as 
with promises and certainties. She had come forth 
to see the world, and this then was to be the world's 
light, the rich dusk of a London "back," these the 
world's walls, those the world's curtains and carpet. 
She should be intimate with the great bronze clock 
and mantel-ornaments, conspicuously presented in 
gratitude and long ago ; she should be as one of the 
circle of eminent contemporaries, photographed, 
engraved, signatured, and in particular framed and 
glazed, who made up the rest of the decoration, and 
made up as well so much of the human comfort; and 
while she thought of all the clean truths, unfringed, 
unfingered, that the listening stillness, strained into 
pauses and waits, would again and again, for years, 
have kept distinct, she also wondered what she would 
eventually decide upon to present in gratitude. She 
would give something better at least than the brawny 
Victorian bronzes. This was precisely an instance of 
what she felt he knew of her before he had done with 
her : that she was secretly romancing at that rate, in 
the midst of so much else that was more urgent, all 
over the place. So much for her secrets with him, 
none of which really required to be phrased. It would 
have been thoroughly a secret for her from any one 

237 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

else that without a dear lady she had picked up just 
before coming over she would n't have a decently 
near connexion of any sort, for such an appeal as she 
was making, to put forward : no one in the least, as it 
were, to produce for respectability. But bis seeing it 
she did n't mind a scrap, and not a scrap either his 
knowing how she had left the dear lady in the dark. 
She had come alone, putting her friend off with a 
fraud : giving a pretext of shops, of a whim, of she 
did n't know what the amusement of being for 
once in the streets by herself. The streets by herself 
were new to her she had always had in them a 
companion or a maid; and he was never to believe 
moreover that she could n't take full in the face any 
thing he might have to say. He was softly amused at 
her account of her courage ; though he yet showed it 
somehow without soothing her too grossly. Still, he 
did want to know whom she had. Had n't there been 
a lady with her on Wednesday ? 

" Yes a different one. Not the one who 's travel 
ling with me. I 've told her." 

Distinctly he was amused, and it added to his air 
the greatest charm of all of giving her lots of time. 
"You've told her what?" 

"Well," said Milly, "that I visit you in secret." 

"And how many persons will she tell ?" 

"Oh she's devoted. Not one." 

"Well, if she's devoted does n't that make another 
friend for you ? " 

It did n't take much computation, but she never 
theless had to think a moment, conscious as she was 
that he distinctly would want to fill out his notion of 

'238 



BOOK FIFTH 

her even a little, as it were, to warm the air for her. 
That however and better early than late he 
must accept as of no use ; and she herself felt for an 
instant quite a competent certainty on the subject of 
any such warming. The air, for Milly Theale, was, 
from the very nature of the case, destined never to 
rid itself of a considerable chill. This she could tell 
him with authority, if she could tell him nothing else; 
and she seemed to see now, in short, that it would 
importantly simplify. "Yes, it makes another; but 
they all together would n't make well, I don't 
know what to call it but the difference. I mean when 
one is really alone. I've never seen anything like 
the kindness." She pulled up a minute while he 
waited waited again as if with his reasons for 
letting her, for almost making her, talk. What she 
herself wanted was not, for the third time, to cry, as 
it were, in public. She bad never seen anything like 
the kindness, and she wished to do it justice; but she 
knew what she was about, and justice was not 
wronged by her being able presently to stick to her 
point. "Only one's situation is what it is. It's me it 
concerns. The rest is delightful and useless. Nobody 
can really help. That's why I 'm by myself to-day. I 
want to be in spite of Miss Croy, who came with 
me last. If you can help, so much the better and 
also of course if one can a little one's self. Except 
for that you and me doing our best I like you to 
see me just as I am. Yes, I like it and I don't exag 
gerate. Should n't one, at the start, show the worst 
so that anything after that may be better ? It 
would n't make any real difference it won't make 

239 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

any, anything that may happen won't to any one. 
Therefore I feel myself, this way, with you, just as I 
am ; and if you do in the least care to know it 
quite positively bears me up." 

She put it as to his caring to know, because his 
manner seemed to give her all her chance, and the 
impression was there for her to take. It was strange 
and deep for her, this impression, and she did ac 
cordingly take it straight home. It showed him 
showed him in spite of himself as allowing, some 
where far within, things comparatively remote, things 
in fact quite, as she would have said, outside, deli 
cately to weigh with him; showed him as interested 
on her behalf in other questions beside the question of 
what was the matter with her. She accepted such an 
interest as regular in the highest type of scientific 
mind his own being the highest, magnificently 
because otherwise obviously it would n't be there; 
but she could at the same time take it as a direct 
source of light upon herself, even though that might 
present her a little as pretending to equal him. Want 
ing to know more about a patient than how a patient 
was constructed or deranged could n't be, even on 
the part of the greatest of doctors, anything but some 
form or other of the desire to let the patient down 
easily. When that was the case the reason, in turn, 
could only be, too manifestly, pity; and when pity 
held up its telltale face like a head on a pike, in a 
French revolution, bobbing before a window, what 
was the inference but that the patient was bad ? He 
might say what he would now she would always 
have seen the head at the window; and in fact from 

240 



BOOK FIFTH 

this moment she only wanted him to say what he 
would. He might say it too with the greater ease to 
himself as there was n't one of her divinations that 
as her own he would in any way put himself out for. 
Finally, if he was making her talk she was talking, 
and what it could at any rate come to for him was 
that she was n't afraid. If he wanted to do the dearest 
thing in the world for her he would show her he be 
lieved she was n't ; which undertaking of hers not 
to have misled him was what she counted at the 
moment as her presumptuous little hint to him that 
she was as good as himself. It put forward the bold 
idea that he could really be misled ; and there actually 
passed between them for some seconds a sign, a sign 
of the eyes only, that they knew together where they 
were. This made, in their brown old temple of truth, 
its momentary flicker; then what followed it was that 
he had her, all the same, in his pocket; and the whole 
thing wound up for that consummation with his 
kind dim smile. Such kindness was wonderful with 
such dimness ; but brightness that even of sharp 
steel was of course for the other side of the busi 
ness, and it would all come in for her to one tune or 
another. " Do you mean," he asked, "that you 've no 
relations at all ? not a parent, not a sister, not even 
a cousin nor an aunt ? " 

She shook her head as with the easy habit of an in 
terviewed heroine or a freak of nature at a show. 
"Nobody whatever" but the last thing she had 
come for was to be dreary about it. " I 'm a survivor 
a survivor of a general wreck. You see," she 
added, "how that's to be taken into account that 

241 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

every one else has gone. When I was ten years old 
there were, with my father and my mother, six of us. 
I 'm all that 's left. But they died," she went on, to be 
fair all round, "of different things. Still, there it is. 
And, as I told you before, I 'm American. Not that I 
mean that makes me worse. However, you '11 prob 
ably know what it makes me." 

"Yes" he even showed amusement for it. "I 
know perfectly what it makes you. It makes you, to 
begin with, a capital case." 

She sighed, though gratefully, as if again before 
the social scene. "Ah there you are!" 

"Oh no; there 'we* are n't at all! There I am only 

but as much as you like. I 've no end of American 
friends : there they are, if you please, and it 's a fact 
that you could n't very well be in a better place than 
in their company. It puts you with plenty of others 

and that is n't pure solitude." Then he pursued : 
"I'm sure you've an excellent spirit; but don't try 
to bear more things than you need." Which after an 
instant he further explained. "Hard things have 
come to you in youth, but you must n't think life will 
be for you all hard things. You've the right to be 
happy. You must make up your mind to it. You 
must accept any form in which happiness may come." 

"Oh I'll accept any whatever!" she almost gaily 
returned. "And it seems to me, for that matter, that 
I 'm accepting a new one every day. Now this ! " she 
smiled. 

"This is very well so far as it goes. You can depend 
on me," the great man said, "for unlimited interest. 
But I 'm only, after all, one element in fifty. We must 

242 



BOOK FIFTH 

gather in plenty of others. Don't mind who knows. 
Knows, I mean, that you and I are friends." 

"Ah you do want to see some one ! " she broke out. 
"You want to get at some one who cares for me." 
With which, however, as he simply met this sponta 
neity in a manner to show that he had often had it 
from young persons of her race, and that he was fa 
miliar even with the possibilities of their familiarity, 
she felt her freedom rendered vain by his silence, and 
she immediately tried to think of the most reasonable 
thing she could say. This would be, precisely, on the 
subject of that freedom, which she now quickly spoke 
of as complete. "That's of course by itself a great 
boon ; so please don't think I don't know it. I can do 
exactly what I like anything in all the wide world. 
I have n't a creature to ask there 's not a finger to 
stop me. I can shake about till I 'm black and blue. 
That perhaps is n't all joy; but lots of people, I know, 
would like to try it." He had appeared about to put 
a question, but then had let her go on, which she 
promptly did, for she understood him the next mo 
ment as having thus taken it from her that her means 
were as great as might be. She had simply given it to 
him so, and this was all that would ever pass between 
them on the odious head. Yet she could n't help also 
knowing that an important effect, for his judgement, 
or at least for his amusement which was his feeling, 
since, marvellously, he did have feeling was pro 
duced by it. All her little pieces had now then fallen 
together for him like the morsels of coloured glass 
that used to make combinations, under the hand, in 
the depths of one of the polygonal peepshows of 

243 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

childhood. "So that if it's a question of my doing 
anything under the sun that will help ! " 

"You'll do anything under the sun? Good." He 
took that beautifully, ever so pleasantly, for what it 
was worth ; but time was needed the minutes or 
so were needed on the spot to deal even provision 
ally with the substantive question. It was conven 
ient, in its degree, that there was nothing she would n't 
do; but it seemed also highly and agreeably vague 
that she should have to do anything. They thus ap 
peared to be taking her, together, for the moment, 
and almost for sociability, as prepared to proceed to 
gratuitous extremities ; the upshot of which was in 
turn that after much interrogation, auscultation, ex 
ploration, much noting of his own sequences and 
neglecting of hers, had duly kept up the vagueness, 
they might have struck themselves, or may at least 
strike us, as coming back from an undeterred but 
useless voyage to the North Pole. Milly was ready, 
under orders, for the North Pole; which fact was 
doubtless what made a blinding anticlimax of her 
friend's actual abstention from orders. "No," she 
heard him again distinctly repeat it, "I don't want 
you for the present to do anything at all; anything, 
that is, but obey a small prescription or two that will 
be made clear to you, and let me within a few days 
come to see you at home." 

It was at first heavenly. "Then you'll see Mrs. 
Stringham." But she did n't mind a bit now. 

"Well, I shan't be afraid of Mrs. Stringham." 
And he said it once more as she asked once more: 
"Absolutely not; I 'send' you nowhere. England's 

244 



BOOK FIFTH 

all right anywhere that's pleasant, convenient, 
decent, will be all right. You say you can do exactly 
as you like. Oblige me therefore by being so good as 
to do it. There 's only one thing : you ought of course, 
now, as soon as I've seen you again, to get out of 
London." 

Milly thought. "May I then go back to the Con 
tinent ? " 

" By all means back to the Continent. Do go back 
to the Continent." 

"Then how will you keep seeing me? But per 
haps," she quickly added, "you won't want to keep 
seeing me." 

He had it all ready; he had really everything all 
ready. "I shall follow you up; though if you mean 
that I don't want you to keep seeing me " 

"Well? "she asked. 

It was only just here that he struck her the least 
bit as stumbling. "Well, see all you can. That's 
what it comes to. Worry about nothing. You have 
at least no worries. It's a great rare chance." 

She had got up, for she had had from him both that 
he would send her something and would advise her 
promptly of the date of his coming to her, by which 
she was virtually dismissed. Yet for herself one or 
two things kept her. "May I come back to England 
too?" 

"Rather! Whenever you like. But always, when 
you do come, immediately let me know." 

"Ah," said Milly, "it won't be a great going to and 
fro." 

"Then if you'll stay with us so much the better." 

245 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

It touched her, the way he controlled his impa 
tience of her; and the fact itself affected her as so 
precious that she yielded to the wish to get more 
from it. " So you don't think I 'm out of my mind ? " 

"Perhaps that is" he smiled, "all that's the 
matter." 

She looked at him longer. "No, that's too good. 
Shall I at any rate suffer ? " 

"Not a bit." 

"And yet then live?" 

"My dear young lady," said her distinguished 
friend, "isn't to 'live' exactly what I'm trying to 
persuade you to take the trouble to do ? " 



IV 



SHE had gone out with these last words so in her ears 
that when once she was well away back this time 
in the great square alone it was as if some instant 
application of them had opened out there before her. 
It was positively, that effect, an excitement that car 
ried her on; she went forward into space under the 
sense of an impulse received an impulse simple 
and direct, easy above all to act upon. She was borne 
up for the hour, and now she knew why she had 
wanted to come by herself. No one in the world could 
have sufficiently entered into her state; no tie would 
have been close enough to enable a companion to 
walk beside her without some disparity. She literally 
felt, in this first flush, that her only company must be 
the human race at large, present all round her, but 
inspiringly impersonal, and that her only field must be, 
then and there, the grey immensity of London. Grey 
immensity had somehow of a sudden become her ele 
ment; grey immensity was what her distinguished 
friend had, for the moment, furnished her world with 
and what the question of "living," as he put it to her, 
living by option, by volition, inevitably took on for its 
immediate face. She went straight before her, with 
out weakness, altogether with strength; and still as 
she went she was more glad to be alone, for nobody 
not Kate Croy, not Susan Shepherd either would 
have wished to rush with her as she rushed. She had 

247 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

asked him at the last whether, being on foot, she might 
go home so, or elsewhere, and he had replied as if 
almost amused again at her extravagance: "You're 
active, luckily, by nature it 's beautiful : therefore 
rejoice in it. Be active, without folly for you're 
not foolish : be as active as you can and as you like." 
That had been in fact the final push, as well as the 
touch that most made a mixture of her consciousness 
a strange mixture that tasted at one and the same 
time of what she had lost and what had been given 
her. It was wonderful to her, while she took her ran 
dom course, that these quantities felt so equal : she 
had been treated had n't she ? as if it were in her 
power to live ; and yet one was n't treated so was 
one ? unless it had come up, quite as much, that 
one might die. The beauty of the bloom had gone 
from the small old sense of safety that was dis 
tinct : she had left it behind her there for ever. But 
the beauty of the idea of a great adventure, a big dim 
experiment or struggle in which she might more re 
sponsibly than ever before take a hand, had been 
offered her instead. It was as if she had had to pluck 
off her breast, to throw away, some friendly orna 
ment, a familiar flower, a little old jewel, that was 
part of her daily dress ; and to take up and shoulder 
as a substitute some queer defensive weapon, a mus 
ket, a spear, a battle-axe conducive possibly in a 
higher degree to a striking appearance, but demand 
ing all the effort of the military posture. 

She felt this instrument, for that matter, already 
on her back, so that she proceeded now in very truth 
after the fashion of a soldier on a march proceeded 

248 



BOOK FIFTH 

as if, for her initiation, the first charge had been 
sounded. She passed along unknown streets, over 
dusty littery ways, between long rows of fronts not 
enhanced by the August light; she felt good for miles 
and only wanted to get lost; there were moments at 
corners, where she stopped and chose her direction, 
in which she quite lived up to his injunction to rejoice 
that she was active. It was like a new pleasure to have 
so new a reason ; she would affirm without delay her 
option, her volition; taking this personal possession 
of what surrounded her was a fair affirmation to start 
with ; and she really did n't care if she made it at the 
cost of alarms for Susie. Susie would wonder in due 
course "whatever," as they said at the hotel, had be 
come of her; yet this would be nothing either, prob 
ably, to wonderments still in store. Wonderments in 
truth, Milly felt, even now attended her steps : it was 
quite as if she saw in people's eyes the reflexion of her 
appearance and pace. She found herself moving at 
times in regions visibly not haunted by odd-looking 
girls from New York, duskily draped, sable-plumed, 
all but incongruously shod and gazing about them 
with extravagance; she might, from the curiosity she 
clearly excited in by-ways, in side-streets peopled 
with grimy children and costermongers' carts, which 
she hoped were slums, literally have had her musket 
on her shoulder, have announced herself as freshly 
on the war-path. But for the fear of overdoing the 
character she would here and there have begun con 
versation, have asked her way; in spite of the fact that, 
as this would help the requirements of adventure, her 
way was exactly what she wanted not to know. The 

249 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

difficulty was that she at last accidentally found it; 
she had come out, she presently saw, at the Regent's 
Park, round which on two or three occasions with 
Kate Croy her public chariot had solemnly rolled. 
But she went into it further now; this was the real 
thing; the real thing was to be quite away from the 
pompous roads, well within the centre and on the 
stretches of shabby grass. Here were benches and 
smutty sheep; here were idle lads at games of ball, 
with their cries mild in the thick air ; here were wan 
derers anxious and tired like herself; here doubtless 
were hundreds of others just in the same box. Their 
box, their great common anxiety, what was it, in this 
grim breathing-space, but the practical question of 
life ? They could live if they would; that is, like her 
self, they had been told so: she saw them all about 
her, on seats, digesting the information, recognising 
it again as something in a slightly different shape 
familiar enough, the blessed old truth that they would 
live if they could. All she thus shared with them 
made her wish to sit in their company; which she so 
far did that she looked for a bench that was empty, 
eschewing a still emptier chair that she saw hard by 
and for which she would have paid, with superiority, 
a fee. 

The last scrap of superiority had soon enough left 
her, if only because she before long knew herself for 
more tired than she had proposed. This and the 
charm, after a fashion, of the situation in itself made 
her linger and rest; there was an accepted spell in the 
sense that nobody in the world knew where she was. 
It was the first time in her life that this had happened ; 

250 



BOOK FIFTH 

somebody, everybody appeared to have known be 
fore, at every instant of it, where she was ; so that she 
was now suddenly able to put it to herself that that 
had n't been a life. This present kind of thing there 
fore might be which was where precisely her dis 
tinguished friend seemed to be wishing her to come 
out. He wished her also, it was true, not to make, as 
she was perhaps doing now, too much of her isolation ; 
at the same time, however, as he clearly desired to 
deny her no decent source of interest. He was inter 
ested she arrived at that in her appealing to as 
many sources as possible; and it fairly filtered into 
her, as she sat and sat, that he was essentially prop 
ping her up. Had she been doing it herself she would 
have called it bolstering the bolstering that was 
simply for the weak; and she thought and thought as 
she put together the proofs that it was as one of the 
weak he was treating her. It was of course as one of 
the weak that she had gone to him but oh with how 
sneaking a hope that he might pronounce her, as to 
all indispensables, a veritable young lioness! What 
indeed she was really confronted with was the con 
sciousness that he had n't after all pronounced her 
anything: she nursed herself into the sense that he 
had beautifully got out of it. Did he think, however, 
she wondered, that he could keep out of it to the end ? 
though as she weighed the question she yet felt it 
a little unjust. Milly weighed, in this extraordinary 
hour, questions numerous and strange; but she had 
happily, before she moved, worked round to a simpli 
fication. Stranger than anything for instance was the 
effect of its rolling over her that, when one considered 

251 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

it, he might perhaps have "got out" by one door but 
to come in with a beautiful beneficent dishonesty by 
another. It kept her more intensely motionless there 
that what he might fundamentally be "up to" was 
some disguised intention of standing by her as a 
friend. Was n't that what women always said they 
wanted to do when they deprecated the addresses of 
gentlemen they could n't more intimately go on with ? 
It was what they, no doubt, sincerely fancied they 
could make of men of whom they could n't make 
husbands. And she did n't even reason that it was 
by a similar law the expedient of doctors in general 
for the invalids of whom they could n't make patients : 
she was somehow so sufficiently aware that her doctor 
was however fatuous it might sound exception 
ally moved. This was the damning little fact if 
she could talk of damnation : that she could believe 
herself to have caught him in the act of irrelevantly 
liking her. She had n't gone to him to be liked, she 
had gone to him to be judged; and he was quite a 
great enough man to be in the habit, as a rule, of ob 
serving the difference. She could like him, as she dis 
tinctly did that was another matter; all the more 
that her doing so was now, so obviously for herself, 
compatible with judgement. Yet it would have been 
all portentously mixed had not, as we say, a final and 
merciful wave, chilling rather, but washing clear, 
come to her assistance. 

It came of a sudden when all other thought was 
spent. She had been asking herself why, if her case 
was grave and she knew what she meant by that 
he should have talked to her at all about what she 

252 



BOOK FIFTH 

might with futility " do " ; or why on the other hand, 
if it were light, he should attach an importance to the 
office of friendship. She had him, with her little lonely 
acuteness as acuteness went during the dog-days 
in the Regent's Park in a cleft stick: she either 
mattered, and then she was ill; or she did n't matter, 
and then she was well enough. Now he was " acting," 
as they said at home, as if she did matter until he 
should prove the contrary. It was too evident that a 
person at his high pressure must keep his inconsist 
encies, which were probably his highest amusements, 
only for the very greatest occasions. Her prevision, 
in fine, of just where she should catch him furnished 
the light of that judgement in which we describe her 
as daring to indulge. And the judgement it was that 
made her sensation simple. He had distinguished her 
that was the chill. He had n't known how could 
he ? that she was devilishly subtle, subtle exactly 
in the manner of the suspected, the suspicious, the 
condemned. He in fact confessed to it, in his way, as 
to an interest in her combinations, her funny race, her 
funny losses, her funny gains, her funny freedom, and, 
no doubt, above all, her funny manners funny, like 
those of Americans at their best, without being vul 
gar, legitimating amiability and helping to pass it off. 
In his appreciation of these redundancies he dressed 
out for her the compassion he so signally permitted 
himself to waste ; but its operation for herself was as 
directly divesting, denuding, exposing. It reduced her 
to her ultimate state, which was that of a poor girl 
with her rent to pay for example staring before her 
in a great city. Milly had her rent to pay, her rent 

253 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

for her future; everything else but how to meet it fell 
away from her in pieces, in tatters. This was the sensa 
tion the great man had doubtless not purposed. Well, 
she must go home, like the poor girl, and see. There 
might after all be ways; the poor girl too would be 
thinking. It came back for that matter perhaps to 
views already presented. She looked about her again, 
on her feet, at her scattered melancholy comrades 
some of them so melancholy as to be down on their 
stomachs in the grass, turned away, ignoring, burrow 
ing; she saw once more, with them, those two faces 
of the question between which there was so little to 
choose for inspiration. It was perhaps superficially 
more striking that one could live if one would; but it 
was more appealing, insinuating, irresistible in short, 
that one would live if one could. 

She found after this, for the day or two, more 
amusement than she had ventured to count on in the 
fact, if it were not a mere fancy, of deceiving Susie; 
and she presently felt that what made the difference 
was the mere fancy as this was one of a counter- 
move to her great man. His taking on himself 
should he do so to get at her companion made her 
suddenly, she held, irresponsible, made any notion of 
her own all right for her; though indeed at the very 
moment she invited herself to enjoy this impunity she 
became aware of new matter for surprise, or at least 
for speculation. Her idea would rather have been 
that Mrs. Stringham would have looked at her hard 
her sketch of the grounds of her independent long 
excursion showing, she could feel, as almost cynically 
superficial. Yet the dear woman so failed, in the 

254 



BOOK FIFTH 

event, to avail herself of any right of criticism that it 
was sensibly tempting to wonder for an hour if Kate 
Croy had been playing perfectly fair. Had n't she 
possibly, from motives of the highest benevolence, 
promptings of the finest anxiety, just given poor Susie 
what she would have called the straight tip ? It must 
immediately be mentioned, however, that, quite apart 
from a remembrance of the distinctness of Kate's 
promise, Milly, the next thing, found her explanation 
in a truth that had the merit of being general. If Susie 
at this crisis suspiciously spared her, it was really 
that Susie was always suspiciously sparing her yet 
occasionally too with portentous and exceptional 
mercies. The girl was conscious of how she dropped 
at times into inscrutable impenetrable deferences 
attitudes that, though without at all intending it, 
made a difference for familiarity, for the ease of in 
timacy. It was as if she recalled herself to manners, 
to the law of court-etiquette which last note above 
all helped our young woman to a just appreciation. 
It was definite for her, even if not quite solid, that 
to treat her as a princess was a positive need of her 
companion's mind ; wherefore she could n't help it if 
this lady had her transcendent view of the way the 
class in question were treated. Susan had read his 
tory, had read Gibbon and Froude and Saint-Simon; 
she had high lights as to the special allowances made 
for the class, and, since she saw them, when young, 
as effete and overtutored, inevitably ironic and in 
finitely refined, one must take it for amusing if she 
inclined to an indulgence verily Byzantine. If one 
could only be Byzantine ! was n't that what she in- 

255 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

sidiously led one on to sigh ? Milly tried to oblige 
her for it really placed Susan herself so handsomely 
to be Byzantine now. The great ladies of that race 
it would be somewhere in Gibbon were ap 
parently not questioned about their mysteries. But 
oh poor Milly and hers ! Susan at all events proved 
scarce more inquisitive than if she had been a mosaic 
at Ravenna. Susan was a porcelain monument to the 
odd moral that consideration might, like cynicism, 
have abysses. Besides, the Puritan finally disencum 
bered ! What starved generations wasn't Mrs. 
Stringham, in fancy, going to make up for ? 

Kate Croy came straight to the hotel came that 
evening shortly before dinner; specifically and pub 
licly moreover, in a hansom that, driven apparently 
very fast, pulled up beneath their windows almost 
with the clatter of an accident, a "smash." Milly, 
alone, as happened, in the great garnished void of 
their sitting-room, where, a little, really, like a caged 
Byzantine, she had been pacing through the queer 
long-drawn almost sinister delay of night, an effect 
she yet liked Milly, at the sound, one of the French 
windows standing open, passed out to the balcony 
that overhung, with pretensions, the general en 
trance, and so was in time for the look that Kate, 
alighting, paying her cabman, happened to send up 
to the front. The visitor moreover had a shilling 
back to wait for, during which Milly, from the bal 
cony, looked down at her, and a mute exchange, but 
with smiles and nods, took place between them on 
what had occurred in the morning. It was what Kate 
had called for, and the tone was thus almost by acci- 



BOOK FIFTH 

dent determined for Milly before her friend came up. 
What was also, however, determined for her was, 
again, yet irrepressibly again, that the image pre 
sented to her, the splendid young woman who looked 
so particularly handsome in impatience, with the fine 
freedom of her signal, was the peculiar property of 
somebody else's vision, that this fine freedom in short 
was the fine freedom she showed Mr. Densher. Just 
so was how she looked to him, and just so was how 
Milly was held by her held as by the strange sense 
of seeing through that distant person's eyes. It lasted, 
as usual, the strange sense, but fifty seconds; yet in so 
lasting it produced an effect. It produced in fact more 
than one, and we take them in their order. The first 
was that it struck our young woman as absurd to say 
that a girl's looking so to a man could possibly be 
without connexions; and the second was that by the 
time Kate had got into the room Milly was in mental 
possession of the main connexion it must have for 
herself. 

She produced this commodity on the spot pro 
duced it in straight response to Kate's frank "Well, 
what ? " The enquiry bore of course, with Kate's 
eagerness, on the issue of the morning's scene, the 
great man's latest wisdom, and it doubtless affected 
Milly a little as the cheerful demand for news is apt 
to affect troubled spirits when news is not, in one of 
the neater forms, prepared for delivery. She could n't 
have said what it was exactly that on the instant de 
termined her; the nearest description of it would 
perhaps have been as the more vivid impression of all 
her friend took for granted. The contrast between 

257 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

this free quantity and the maze of possibilities through 
which, for hours, she had herself been picking her 
way, put on, in short, for the moment, a grossness 
that even friendly forms scarce lightened : it helped 
forward in fact the revelation to herself that she ab 
solutely had nothing to tell. Besides which, certainly, 
there was something else an influence at the par 
ticular juncture still more obscure. Kate had lost, 
on the way upstairs, the look the look that made 
her young hostess so subtly think and one of the signs 
of which was that she never kept it for many moments 
at once; yet she stood there, none the less, so in her 
bloom and in her strength, so completely again the 
"handsome girl" beyond all others, the "handsome 
girl" for whom Milly had at first gratefully taken 
her, that to meet her now with the note of the plaint 
ive would amount somehow to a surrender, to a con 
fession. She would never in her life be ill ; the greatest 
doctor would keep her, at the worst, the fewest min 
utes; and it was as if she had asked just with all this 
practical impeccability for all that was most mortal in 
her friend. These things, for Milly, inwardly danced 
their dance; but the vibration produced and the dust 
kicked up had lasted less than our account of them. 
Almost before she knew it she was answering, and 
answering beautifully, with no consciousness of fraud, 
only as with a sudden flare of the famous "will 
power " she had heard about, read about, and which 
was what her medical adviser had mainly thrown her 
back on. "Oh it's all right. He's lovely." 

Kate was splendid, and it would have been clear 
for Milly now, had the further presumption been 

258 



BOOK FIFTH 

needed, that she had said no word to Mrs. Stringham. 
" You mean you 've been absurd ? " 

"Absurd." It was a simple word to say, but the 
consequence of it, for our young woman, was that 
she felt it, as soon as spoken, to have done something 
for her safety. 

And Kate really hung on her lips. "There's no 
thing at all the matter?" 

" Nothing to worry about. I shall need a little watch 
ing, but I shan't have to do anything dreadful, or 
even in the least inconvenient. I can do in fact as I 
like." It was wonderful for Milly how just to put it so 
made all its pieces fall at present quite properly into 
their places. 

Yet even before the full effect came Kate had 
seized, kissed, blessed her. "My love, you're too 
sweet ! It 's too dear ! But it 's as I was sure." Then 
she grasped the full beauty. "You can do as you 
like?" 

" Quite. Is n't it charming ? " 

"Ah but catch you," Kate triumphed with gaiety, 
"not doing ! And what shall you do?" 

" For the moment simply enjoy it. Enjoy " 
Milly was completely luminous "having got out of 
my scrape." 

"Learning, you mean, so easily, that you are well ?" 

It was as if Kate had but too conveniently put the 
words into her mouth. "Learning, I mean, so easily, 
that I am well." 

" Only no one 's of course well enough to stay in 
London now. He can't," Kate went on, "want this 
of you." 

259 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

" Mercy no I 'm to knock about. I 'm to go to 
places." 

" But not beastly ' climates ' Engadines, Rivie- 
ras, boredoms ? " 

"No; just, as I say, where I prefer. I'm to go in 
for pleasure." 

"Oh the duck!" Kate, with her own shades of 
familiarity, abounded. "But what kind of pleas 
ure?" 

"The highest," Milly smiled. 

Her friend met it as nobly. "Which is the high 
est?" 

"Well, it's just our chance to find out. You must 
help me." 

"What have I wanted to do but help you," Kate 
asked, "from the moment I first laid eyes on you ?" 
Yet with this too Kate had her wonder. " I like your 
talking, though, about that. What help, with your 
luck all round, do you need ? " 



MILLY indeed at last could n't say; so that she had 
really for the time brought it along to the point so 
oddly marked for her by her visitor's arrival, the 
truth that she was enviably strong. She carried this 
out, from that evening, for each hour still left her, 
and the more easily perhaps that the hours were now 
narrowly numbered. All she actually waited for was 
Sir Luke Strett's promised visit; as to her proceeding 
on which, however, her mind was quite made up. 
Since he wanted to get at Susie he should have the 
freest access, and then perhaps he would see how he 
liked it. What was between them they might settle 
as between them, and any pressure it should lift from 
her own spirit they were at liberty to convert to their 
use. If the dear man wished to fire Susan Shepherd 
with a still higher ideal, he would only after all, at the 
worst, have Susan on his hands. If devotion, in a 
word, was what it would come up for the interested 
pair to organise, she was herself ready to consume it 
as the dressed and served dish. He had talked to her 
of her "appetite," her account of which, she felt, 
must have been vague. But for devotion, she could 
now see, this appetite would be of the best. Gross, 
greedy, ravenous these were doubtless the proper 
names for her : she was at all events resigned in ad 
vance to the machinations of sympathy. The day 
that followed her lonely excursion was to be the last 

261 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

but two or three of their stay in London; and the 
evening of that day practically ranked for them as, in 
the matter of outside relations, the last of all. People 
were by this time quite scattered, and many of those 
who had so liberally manifested in calls, in cards, in 
evident sincerity about visits, later on, over the land, 
had positively passed in music out of sight; whether 
as members, these latter, more especially, of Mrs. 
Lowder's immediate circle or as members of Lord 
Mark's our friends being by this time able to 
make the distinction. The general pitch had thus 
decidedly dropped, and the occasions still to be dealt 
with were special and few. One of these, for Milly, 
announced itself as the doctor's call already men 
tioned, as to which she had now had a note from him : 
the single other, of importance, was their appointed 
leave-taking for the shortest separation in re 
spect to Mrs. Lowder and Kate. The aunt and the 
niece were to dine with them alone, intimately and 
easily as easily as should be consistent with the 
question of their afterwards going on together to some 
absurdly belated party, at which they had had it from 
Aunt Maud that they would do well to show. Sir 
Luke was to make his appearance on the morrow of 
this, and in respect to that complication Milly had al 
ready her plan. 

The night was at all events hot and stale, and it 
was late enough by the time the four ladies had been 
gathered in, for their small session, at the hotel, where 
the windows were still open to the high balconies and 
the flames of the candles, behind the pink shades 
disposed as for the vigil of watchers were motion- 

262 



BOOK FIFTH 

less in the air in which the season lay dead. What 
was presently settled among them was that Milly, 
who betrayed on this occasion a preference more 
marked than usual, should n't hold herself obliged 
to climb that evening the social stair, however it 
might stretch to meet her, and that, Mrs. Lowder and 
Mrs. Stringham facing the ordeal together, Kate 
Croy should remain with her and await their return. 
It was a pleasure to Milly, ever, to send Susan Shep 
herd forth; she saw her go with complacency, liked, 
as it were, to put people off with her, and noted with 
satisfaction, when she so moved to the carriage, the 
further denudation a markedly ebbing tide of 
her little benevolent back. If it was n't quite Aunt 
Maud's ideal, moreover, to take out the new Ameri 
can girl's funny friend instead of the new American 
girl herself, nothing could better indicate the range of 
that lady's merit than the spirit in which as at the 
present hour for instance she made the best of the 
minor advantage. And she did this with a broad 
cheerful absence of illusion ; she did it confessing 
even as much to poor Susie because, frankly, she 
was good-natured. When Mrs. Stringham observed 
that her own light was too abjectly borrowed and that 
it was as a link alone, fortunately not missing, that 
she was valued, Aunt Maud concurred to the extent 
of the remark: "Well, my dear, you're better than 
nothing." To-night furthermore it came up for Milly 
that Aunt Maud had something particular in mind. 
Mrs. Stringham, before adjourning with her, had 
gone off for some shawl or other accessory, and Kate, 
as if a little impatient for their withdrawal, had wan- 

263 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

dered out to the balcony, where she hovered for the 
time unseen, though with scarce more to look at than 
the dim London stars and the cruder glow, up the 
street, on a corner, of a small public-house in front of 
which a fagged cab-horse was thrown into relief. 
Mrs. Lowder made use of the moment : Milly felt as 
soon as she had spoken that what she was doing was 
somehow for use. 

" Dear Susan tells me that you saw in America Mr. 
Densher whom I've never till now, as you may 
have noticed, asked you about. But do you mind at 
last, in connexion with him, doing something for 
me?" She had lowered her fine voice to a depth, 
though speaking with all her rich glibness ; and Milly, 
after a small sharpness of surprise, was already guess 
ing the sense of her appeal. "Will you name him, in 
any way you like, to her " and Aunt Maud gave a 
nod at the window; "so that you may perhaps find 
out whether he 's back ? " 

Ever so many things, for Milly, fell into line at this ; 
it was a wonder, she afterwards thought, that she 
could be conscious of so many at once. She smiled 
hard, however, for them all. " But I don't know that 
it's important to me to 'find out.'" The array of 
things was further swollen, however, even as she said 
this, by its striking her as too much to say. She there 
fore tried as quickly to say less. "Except you mean 
of course that it's important to you." She fancied 
Aunt Maud was looking at her almost as hard as she 
was herself smiling, and that gave her another im 
pulse. "You know I never have yet named him to 
her; so that if I should break out now " 

264 






BOOK FIFTH 

"Well ? " Mrs. Lowder waited. 

"Why she may wonder what I've been making 
a mystery of. She has n't mentioned him, you know," 
Milly went on, "herself." 

"No" her friend a little heavily weighed it 
"she wouldn't. So it's she, you see then, who has 
made the mystery." 

Yes, Milly but wanted to see; only there was so 
much. "There has been of course no particular 
reason." Yet that indeed was neither here nor there. 
"Do you think," she asked, "he is back?" 

"It will be about his time, I gather, and rather a 
comfort to me definitely to know." 

"Then can't you ask her yourself?" 

"Ah we never speak of him!" 

It helped Milly for the moment to the convenience 
of a puzzled pause. " Do you mean he 's an acquaint 
ance of whom you disapprove for her ? " 

Aunt Maud, as well, just hung fire. " I disapprove 
of her for the poor young man. She does n't care for 
him." 

"And he cares so much ?" 

"Too much, too much. And my fear is," said 
Mrs. Lowder, "that he privately besets her. She 
keeps it to herself, but I don't want her worried. 
Neither, in truth," she both generously and confident 
ially concluded, "do I want him." 

Milly showed all her own effort to meet the case. 
"But what can /do?" 

"You can find out where they are. If I myself 
try," Mrs. Lowder explained, "I shall appear to 
treat them as if I supposed them deceiving me." 

265 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

"And you don't. You don't," Milly mused for her, 
"suppose them deceiving you." 

"Well," said Aunt Maud, whose fine onyx eyes 
failed to blink even though Milly's questions might 
have been taken as drawing her rather further than 
she had originally meant to go "well, Kate's 
thoroughly aware of my views for her, and that I 
take her being with me at present, in the way she 
is with me, if you know what I mean, for a loyal 
assent to them. Therefore as my views don't happen 
to provide a place at all for Mr. Densher, much, 
in a manner, as I like him " therefore in short she 
had been prompted to this step, though she com 
pleted her sense, but sketchily, with the rattle of her 
large fan. 

It assisted them for the moment perhaps, however, 
that Milly was able to pick out of her sense what 
might serve as the clearest part of it. " You do like 
him then ? " 

"Oh dear yes. Don't you ?" 

Milly waited, for the question was somehow as 
the sudden point of something sharp on a nerve that 
winced. She just caught her breath, but she had 
ground for joy afterwards, she felt, in not really having 
failed to choose with quickness sufficient, out of 
fifteen possible answers, the one that would best serve 
her. She was then almost proud, as well, that she had 
cheerfully smiled. "I did three times in New 
York." So came and went, in these simple words, 
the speech that was to figure for her, later on, that 
night, as the one she had ever uttered that cost her 
most. She was to lie awake for the gladness of not 

266 



BOOK FIFTH 

having taken any line so really inferior as the denial of 
a happy impression. 

For Mrs. Lowder also moreover her simple words 
were the right ones ; they were at any rate, that lady's 
laugh showed, in the natural note of the racy. " You 
dear American thing! But people may be very good 
and yet not good for what one wants." 

"Yes," the girl assented, "even I suppose when 
what one wants is something very good." 

" Oh my child, it would take too long just now to 
tell you all / want ! I want everything at once and 
together and ever so much for you too, you know. 
But you've seen us," Aunt Maud continued; "you'll 
have made out." 

"Ah," said Milly, "I dont make out;" for again 
it came lhat way in rushes she felt an obscurity 
in things. "Why, if our friend here doesn't like 
him- 

" Should I conceive her interested in keeping things 
from me ?" Mrs. Lowder did justice to the question. 
"My dear, how can you ask? Put yourself in her 
place. She meets me, but on her terms. Proud young 
women are proud young women. And proud old ones 
are well, what / am. Fond of you as we both are, 
you can help us." 

Milly tried to be inspired. " Does it come back then 
to my asking her straight ? " 

At this, however, finally, Aunt Maud threw her up. 
"Oh if you've so many reasons not I" 

"I've not so many," Milly smiled "but I've 
one. If I break out so suddenly on my knowing him, 
what will she make of my not having spoken before ? " 

267 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

Mrs. Lowder looked blank at it. "Why should 
you care what she makes ? You may have only been 
decently discreet." 

"Ah I have been," the girl made haste to say. 

" Besides," her friend went on, " I suggested to you, 
through Susan, your line." 

"Yes, that reason's a reason for me" 

"And for me" Mrs. Lowder insisted. "She's not 
therefore so stupid as not to do justice to grounds so 
marked. You can tell her perfectly that I had asked 
you to say nothing." 

"And may I tell her that you've asked me now to 
speak?" 

Mrs. Lowder might well have thought, yet, oddly, 
this pulled her up. "You can't do it without ?" 

Milly was almost ashamed to be raising so many 
difficulties. "I'll do what I can if you'll kindly tell 
me one thing more." She faltered a little it was 
so prying; but she brought it out. "Will he have 
been writing to her ? " 

"It's exactly, my dear, what I should like to 
know!" Mrs. Lowder was at last impatient. "Push 
in for yourself and I dare say she '11 tell you." 

Even now, all the same, Milly had not quite fallen 
back. " It will be pushing in," she continued to smile, 
"for you" She allowed her companion, however, no 
time to take this up. "The point will be that if he has 
been writing she may have answered." 

" But what point, you subtle thing, is that ? " 

"It is n't subtle, it seems to me, but quite simple," 
Milly said, "that if she has answered she has very 
possibly spoken of me." 

268 



BOOK FIFTH 

"Very certainly indeed. But what difference will 
it make?" 

The girl had a moment, at this, of thinking it nat 
ural Mrs. Lowder herself should so fail of subtlety. 
"It will make the difference that he'll have written 
her in reply that he knows me. And that, in turn," 
our young woman explained, "will give an oddity to 
my own silence." 

"How so, if she's perfectly aware of having given 
you no opening ? The only oddity," Aunt Maud 
lucidly professed, "is for yourself. It's in her not 
having spoken." 

"Ah there we are!" said Milly. 

And she had uttered it, evidently, in a tone that 
struck her friend. "Then it has troubled you ?" 

But the enquiry had only to be made to bring the 
rare colour with fine inconsequence to her face. " Not 
really the least little bit!" And, quickly feeling the 
need to abound in this sense, she was on the point, to 
cut short, of declaring that she cared, after all, no 
scrap how much she obliged. Only she felt at this 
instant too the intervention of still other things. Mrs. 
Lowder was in the first place already beforehand, 
already affected as by the sudden vision of her having 
herself pushed too far. Milly could never judge from 
her face of her uppermost motive it was so little, 
in its hard smooth sheen, that kind of human counten 
ance. She looked hard when she spoke fair; the only 
thing was that when she spoke hard she did n't like 
wise look soft. Something, none the less, had arisen 
in her now a full appreciable tide, entering by the 
rupture of some bar. She announced that if what she 

269 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

had asked was to prove in the least a bore her young 
friend was not to dream of it; making her young friend 
at the same time, by the change in her tone, dream on 
the spot more profusely. She spoke, with a belated 
light, Milly could apprehend she could always 
apprehend from pity; and the result of that per 
ception, for the girl, was singular : it proved to her as 
quickly that Kate, keeping her secret, had been 
straight with her. From Kate distinctly then, as to 
why she was to be pitied, Aunt Maud knew nothing, 
and was thereby simply putting in evidence the fine 
side of her own character. This fine side was that she 
could almost at any hour, by a kindled preference or a 
diverted energy, glow for another interest than her 
own. She exclaimed as well, at this moment, that 
Milly must have been thinking round the case much 
more than she had supposed ; and this remark could 
affect the girl as quickly and as sharply as any other 
form of the charge of weakness. It was what every 
one, if she did n't look out, would soon be saying 
"There's something the matter with you!" What 
one was therefore one's self concerned immediately to 
establish was that there was nothing at all. "I shall 
like to help you; I shall like, so far as that goes, to 
help Kate herself," she made such haste as she could 
to declare ; her eyes wandering meanwhile across the 
width of the room to that dusk of the balcony in 
which their companion perhaps a little unaccountably 
lingered. She suggested hereby her impatience to 
begin; she almost overtly wondered at the length of 
the opportunity this friend was giving them re 
ferring it, however, so far as words went, to the other 

270 



BOOK FIFTH 

friend and breaking off with an amused: "How tre 
mendously Susie must be beautifying!" 

It only marked Aunt Maud, none the less, as too 
preoccupied for her allusion. The onyx eyes were 
fixed upon her with a polished pressure that must 
signify some enriched benevolence. "Let it go, my 
dear. We shall after all soon enough see." 

"If he has come back we shall certainly see," Milly 
after a moment replied; "for he'll probably feel that 
he can't quite civilly not come to see me. Then there" 
she remarked, "we shall be. It would n't then, you 
see, come through Kate at all it would come 
through him. Except," she wound up with a smile, 
"that he won't find me." 

She had the most extraordinary sense of interesting 
her guest, in spite of herself, more than she wanted ; 
it was as if her doom so floated her on that she 
could n't stop by very much the same trick it had 
played her with her doctor. "Shall you run away 
from him ? " 

She neglected the question, wanting only now to 
get off. "Then," she went on, "you '11 deal with Kate 
directly." 

"Shall you run away from her? 9 ' Mrs. Lowder 
profoundly enquired, while they became aware of 
Susie's return through the room, opening out behind 
them, in which they had dined. 

This affected Milly as giving her but an instant; 
and suddenly, with it, everything she felt in the con 
nexion rose to her lips for a question that, even as she 
put it, she knew she was failing to keep colourless. 
"Is it your own belief that he is with her ?" 

271 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

Aunt Maud took it in took in, that is, everything 
of the tone that she just wanted her not to; and the 
result for some seconds was but to make their eyes 
meet in silence. Mrs. Stringham had rejoined them 
and was asking if Kate had gone an enquiry at once 
answered by this young lady's reappearance. They 
saw her again in the open window, where, looking at 
them, she had paused producing thus on Aunt 
Maud's part almost too impressive a "Hush!" Mrs. 
Lowder indeed without loss of time smothered any 
danger in a sweeping retreat with Susie; but Milly's 
words to her, just uttered, about dealing with her 
niece directly, struck our young woman as already 
recoiling on herself. Directness, however evaded, 
would be, fully, for her; nothing in fact would ever 
have been for her so direct as the evasion. Kate had 
remained in the window, very handsome and upright, 
the outer dark framing in a highly favourable way 
her summery simplicities and lightnesses of dress. 
Milly had, given the relation of space, no real fear 
she had heard their talk; only she hovered there as 
with conscious eyes and some added advantage. Then 
indeed, with small delay, her friend sufficiently saw. 
The conscious eyes, the added advantage were but 
those she had now always at command those 
proper to the person Milly knew as known to Mer- 
ton Densher. It was for several seconds again as if 
the total of her identity had been that of the person 
known to him a determination having for result 
another sharpness of its own. Kate had positively 
but to be there just as she was to tell her he had 
come back. It seemed to pass between them in fine 

272 



BOOK FIFTH 

without a word that he was in London, that he was 
perhaps only round the corner; and surely therefore 
no dealing of Milly's with her would yet have been 
so direct. 



VI 



IT was doubtless because this queer form of direct 
ness had in itself, for the hour, seemed so sufficient 
that Milly was afterwards aware of having really, all 
the while during the strange indescribable session 
before the return of their companions done nothing 
to intensify it. If she was most aware only after 
wards, under the long and discurtained ordeal of the 
morrow's dawn, that was because she had really, till 
their evening's end came, ceased after a little to miss 
anything from their ostensible comfort. What was 
behind showed but in gleams and glimpses ; what was 
in front never at all confessed to not holding the stage. 
Three minutes had n't passed before Milly quite 
knew she should have done nothing Aunt Maud had 
just asked her. She knew it moreover by much the 
same light that had acted for her with that lady and 
with Sir Luke Strett. It pressed upon her then and 
there that she was still in a current determined, 
through her indifference, timidity, bravery, generosity 
she scarce could say which by others ; that not 
she but the current acted, and that somebody else 
always was the keeper of the lock or the dam. Kate 
for example had but to open the flood-gate: the cur 
rent moved in its mass the current, as it had been, 
of her doing as Kate wanted. What, somehow, in the 
most extraordinary way in the world, had Kate 
wanted but to be, of a sudden, more interesting than 
she had ever been ? Milly, for their evening then, quite 

274 



BOOK FIFTH 

held her breath with the appreciation of it. If she 
had n't been sure her companion would have had 
nothing, from her moments with Mrs. Lowder, to go 
by, she would almost have seen the admirable creat 
ure "cutting in" to anticipate a danger. This fan 
tasy indeed, while they sat together, dropped after a 
little; even if only because other fantasies multiplied 
and clustered, making fairly, for our young woman, 
the buoyant medium in which her friend talked and 
moved. They sat together, I say, but Kate moved as 
much as she talked; she figured there, restless and 
charming, just perhaps a shade perfunctory, repeat 
edly quitting her place, taking slowly, to and fro, in 
the trailing folds of her light dress, the length of the 
room almost avowedly performing for the pleasure 
of her hostess. 

Mrs. Lowder had said to Milly at Matcham that 
she and her niece, as allies, could practically conquer 
the world; but though it was a speech about which 
there had even then been a vague grand glamour the 
girl read into it at present more of an approach to a 
meaning. Kate, for that matter, by herself, could 
conquer anything, and she, Milly Theale, was prob 
ably concerned with the "world" only as the small 
scrap of it that most impinged on her and that was 
therefore first to be dealt with. On this basis of being 
dealt with she would doubtless herself do her share of 
the conquering : she would have something to supply, 
Kate something to take each of them thus, to that 
tune, something for squaring with Aunt Maud's ideal. 
This in short was what it came to now that the oc 
casion, in the quiet late lamplight, had the quality of 

275 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

a rough rehearsal of the possible big drama. Milly 
knew herself dealt with handsomely, completely: 
she surrendered to the knowledge, for so it was, she 
felt, that she supplied her helpful force. And what 
Kate had to take Kate took as freely and to all appear 
ance as gratefully ; accepting afresh, with each of her 
long, slow walks, the relation between them so estab 
lished and consecrating her companion's surrender 
simply by the interest she gave it. The interest to 
Milly herself we naturally mean ; the interest to Kate 
Milly felt as probably inferior. It easily and largely 
came for their present talk, for the quick flight of the 
hour before the breach of the spell it all came, 
when considered, from the circumstance, not in the 
least abnormal, that the handsome girl was in extra 
ordinary "form." Milly remembered her having said 
that she was at her best late at night; remembered it 
by its having, with its fine assurance, made her won 
der when she was at her best and how happy people 
must be who had such a fixed time. She had no time 
at all ; she was never at her best unless indeed it 
were exactly, as now, in listening, watching, admiring, 
collapsing. If Kate moreover, quite mercilessly, had 
never been so good, the beauty and the marvel of it 
was that she had never really been so frank : being a 
person of such a calibre, as Milly would have said, 
that, even while "dealing" with you and thereby, as 
it were, picking her steps, she could let herself go, 
could, in irony, in confidence, in extravagance, tell 
you things she had never told before. That was the 
impression that she was telling things, and quite 
conceivably for her own relief as well; almost as if 

276 



BOOK FIFTH 

the errors of vision, the mistakes of proportion, the 
residuary innocence of spirit still to be remedied on 
the part of her auditor, had their moments of proving 
too much for her nerves. She went at them just now, 
these sources of irritation, with an amused energy 
that it would have been open to Milly to regard as 
cynical and that was nevertheless called for as to 
this the other was distinct by the way that in cer 
tain connexions the American mind broke down. It 
seemed at least the American mind as sitting there 
thrilled and dazzled in Milly not to understand 
English society without a separate confrontation with 
all the cases. It could n't proceed by there was 
some technical term she lacked until Milly suggested 
both analogy and induction, and then, differently, 
instinct, none of which were right : it had to be led up 
and introduced to each aspect of the monster, enabled 
to walk all round it, whether for the consequent exag 
gerated ecstasy or for the still more (as appeared to 
this critic) disproportionate shock. It might, the 
monster, Kate conceded, loom large for those born 
amid forms less developed and therefore no doubt 
less amusing; it might on some sides be a strange and 
dreadful monster, calculated to devour the unwary, 
to abase the proud, to scandalise the good; but if one 
had to live with it one must, not to be for ever sitting 
up, learn how : which was virtually in short to-night 
what the handsome girl showed herself as teaching. 
She gave away publicly, in this process, Lancaster 
Gate and everything it contained; she gave away, 
hand over hand, Milly's thrill continued to note, Aunt 
Maud and Aunt Maud's glories and Aunt Maud's 

277 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

complacencies; she gave herself away most of all, and 
it was naturally what most contributed to her can 
dour. She did n't speak to her friend once more, in 
Aunt Maud's strain, of how they could scale the skies ; 
she spoke, by her bright perverse preference on this 
occasion, of the need, in the first place, of being neither 
stupid nor vulgar. It might have been a lesson, for 
our young American, in the art of seeing things as 
they were a lesson so various and so sustained that 
the pupil had, as we have shown, but receptively to 
gape. The odd thing furthermore was that it could 
serve its purpose while explicitly disavowing every 
personal bias. It was n't that she disliked Aunt Maud, 
who was everything she had on other occasions de 
clared; but the dear woman, ineffaceably stamped by 
inscrutable nature and a dreadful art, was n't how 
could she be ? what she was n't. She was n't any 
one. She was n't anything. She was n't anywhere. 
Milly must n't think it one could n't, as a good 
friend, let her. Those hours at Matcham were in- 
espereesy were pure manna from heaven; or if not 
wholly that perhaps, with humbugging old Lord 
Mark as a backer, were vain as a ground for hopes 
and calculations. Lord Mark was very well, but he 
was n't the cleverest creature in England, and even if 
he had been he still would n't have been the most ob 
liging. He weighed it out in ounces, and indeed each 
of the pair was really waiting for what the other 
would put down. 

"She has put down you" said Milly, attached to 
the subject still; "and I think what you mean is that, 
on the counter, she still keeps hold of you." * 

278 



BOOK FIFTH 

"Lest" Kate took it up "he should suddenly 
grab me and run ? Oh as he is n't ready to run he 's 
much less ready, naturally, to grab. I am you 're 
so far right as that on the counter, when I 'm not 
in the shop- window; in and out of which I'm thus 
conveniently, commercially whisked : the essence, all 
of it, of my position, and the price, as properly, of 
my aunt's protection." Lord Mark was substan 
tially what she had begun with as soon as they were 
alone; the impression was even yet with Milly of her 
having sounded his name, having imposed it, as a 
topic, in direct opposition to the other name that Mrs. 
Lowder had left in the air and that all her own look, 
as we have seen, kept there at first for her companion. 
The immediate strange effect had been that of her 
consciously needing, as it were, an alibi which, 
successfully, she so found. She had worked it to the 
end, ridden it to and fro across the course marked for 
Milly by Aunt Maud, and now she had quite, so to 
speak, broken it in. "The bore is that if she wants 
him so much wants him, heaven forgive her! for 
me he has put us all out, since your arrival, by 
wanting somebody else. I don't mean somebody else 
than you." 

Milly threw off the charm sufficiently to shake her 
head. "Then I have n't made out who it is. If I'm 
any part of his alternative he had better stop where 
he is." 

"Truly, truly ? always, always ?" 

Milly tried to insist with an equal gaiety. "Would 
you like me to swear ? " 

Kate appeared for a moment though that was 
279 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

doubtless but gaiety too to think. "Haven't we 
been swearing enough ? " 

"You have perhaps, but I have n't, and I ought to 
give you the equivalent. At any rate there it is. 
'Truly, truly ' as you say ' always, always/ So I 'm 
not in the way." 

"Thanks," said Kate "but that doesn't help 



me." 



"Oh it's as simplifying for him that I speak of it." 

"The difficulty really is that he's a person with 
so many ideas that it 's particularly hard to simplify 
for him. That's exactly of course what Aunt Maud 
has been trying. He won't," Kate firmly continued, 
"make up his mind about me." 

"Well," Milly smiled, "give him time." 

Her friend met it in perfection. "One 's doing that 
one is. But one remains all the same but one of 
his ideas." 

"There's no harm in that," Milly returned, "if 
you come out in the end as the best of them. What 's 
a man," she pursued, "especially an ambitious one, 
without a variety of ideas ? " 

"No doubt. The more the merrier." And Kate 
looked at her grandly. "One can but hope to come 
out, and do nothing to prevent it." 

All of which made for the impression, fantastic or 
not, of the alibi. The splendour, the grandeur were 
for Milly the bold ironic spirit behind it, so interest 
ing too in itself. What, further, was not less interest 
ing was the fact, as our young woman noted it, that 
Kate confined her point to the difficulties, so far as 
she was concerned, raised only by Lord Mark. She 

280 



BOOK FIFTH 

referred now to none that her own taste might pre 
sent; which circumstance again played its little part. 
She was doing what she liked in respect to another 
person, but she was in no way committed to the other 
person, and her moreover talking of Lord Mark as 
not young and not true were only the signs of her clear 
self-consciousness, were all in the line of her slightly 
hard but scarce the less graceful extravagance. She 
did n't wish to show too much her consent to be ar 
ranged for, but that was a different thing from not 
wishing sufficiently to give it. There was something 
on it all, as well, that Milly still found occasion to say. 
" If your aunt has been, as you tell me, put out by me, 
I feel she has remained remarkably kind." 

"Oh but she has whatever might have hap 
pened in that respect plenty of use for you ! You 
put her in, my dear, more than you put her out. You 
don't half see it, but she has clutched your petticoat. 
You can do anything you can do, I mean, lots that 
we can't. You 're an outsider, independent and stand 
ing by yourself; you 're not hideously relative to tiers 
and tiers of others." And Kate, facing in that direc 
tion, went further and further; wound up, while Milly 
gaped, with extraordinary words. "We're of no use 
to you it 's decent to tell you. You 'd be of use to 
us, but that 's a different matter. My honest advice to 
you would be " she went indeed all lengths "to 
drop us while you can. It would be funny if you 
did n't soon see how awfully better you can do. We Ve 
not really done for you the least thing worth speaking 
of nothing you might n't easily have had in some 
other way. Therefore you're under no obligation. 

281 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

You won't want us next year; we shall only continue 
to want you. But that's no reason for you, and you 
must n't pay too dreadfully for poor Mrs. Stringham's 
having let you in. She has the best conscience in the 
world ; she 's enchanted with what she has done ; but 
you should n't take your people from her. It has been 
quite awful to see you do it." 

Milly tried to be amused, so as not it was too 
absurd to be fairly frightened. Strange enough 
indeed if not natural enough that, late at night 
thus, in a mere mercenary house, with Susie away, a 
want of confidence should possess her. She recalled, 
with all the rest of it, the next day, piecing things to 
gether in the dawn, that she had felt herself alone 
with a creature who paced like a panther. That was a 
violent image, but it made her a little less ashamed of 
having been scared. For all her scare, none the less, 
she had now the sense to find words. "And yet with 
out Susie I should n't have had you." 

It had been at this point, however, that Kate flick 
ered highest. "Oh you may very well loathe me yet ! " 

Really at last, thus, it had been too much ; as, with 
her own least feeble flare, after a wondering watch, 
Milly had shown. She hadn't cared; she had too 
much wanted to know; and, though a small solemnity 
of remonstrance, a sombre strain, had broken into 
her tone, it was to figure as her nearest approach to 
serving Mrs. Lowder. "Why do you say such things 
to me?" 

This unexpectedly had acted, by a sudden turn of 
Kate's attitude, as a happy speech. She had risen as 
she spoke, and Kate had stopped before her, shining 

282 



BOOK FIFTH 

at her instantly with a softer brightness. Poor Milly 
hereby enjoyed one of her views of how people, winc 
ing oddly, were often touched by her. "Because 
you 're a dove." With which she felt herself ever so 
delicately, so considerately, embraced ; not with famil 
iarity or as a liberty taken, but almost ceremonially 
and in the manner of an accolade ; partly as if, though 
a dove who could perch on a finger, one were also 
a princess with whom forms were to be observed. 
It even came to her, through the touch of her com 
panion's lips, that this form, this cool pressure, fairly 
sealed the sense of what Kate had just said. It was 
moreover, for the girl, like an inspiration : she found 
herself accepting as the right one, while she caught her 
breath with relief, the name so given her. She met it 
on the instant as she would have met revealed truth ; 
it lighted up the strange dusk in which she lately had 
walked. That was what was the matter with her. She 
was a dove. Oh was nt she ? it echoed within her 
as she became aware of the sound, outside, of the re 
turn of their friends. There was, the next thing, little 
enough doubt about it after Aunt Maud had been 
two minutes in the room. She had come up, Mrs. 
Lowder, with Susan which she need n't have done, 
at that hour, instead of letting Kate come down to 
her; so that Milly could be quite sure it was to catch 
hold, in some way, of the loose end they had left. 
Well, the way she did catch was simply to make the 
point that it did n't now in the least matter. She had 
mounted the stairs for this, and she had her moment 
again with her younger hostess while Kate, on the 
spot, as the latter at the time noted, gave Susan Shep- 

283 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

herd unwonted opportunities. Kate was in other 
words, as Aunt Maud engaged her friend, listening 
with the handsomest response to Mrs. Stringham's 
impression of the scene they had just quitted. It was 
in the tone of the fondest indulgence almost, really, 
that of dove cooing to dove that Mrs. Lowder ex 
pressed to Milly the hope that it had all gone beauti 
fully. Her " all " had an ample benevolence; it soothed 
and simplified ; she spoke as if it were the two young 
women, not she and her comrade, who had been fac 
ing the town together. But Milly's answer had pre 
pared itself while Aunt Maud was bn the stair; she 
had felt in a rush all the reasons that would make it 
the most dovelike; and she gave it, while she was 
about it, as earnest, as candid. "I don't think, dear 
lady, he's here." 

It gave her straightway the measure of the success 
she could have as a dove: that was recorded in the 
long look of deep criticism, a look without a word, 
that Mrs. Lowder poured forth. And the word, pre 
sently, bettered it still. "Oh you exquisite thing!" 
The luscious innuendo of it, almost startling, lingered 
in the room, after the visitors had gone, like an over- 
sweet fragrance. But left alone with Mrs. Stringham 
Milly continued to breathe it : she studied again the 
dovelike and so set her companion to mere rich re 
porting that she averted all enquiry into her own case. 

That, with the new day, was once more her law 
though she saw before her, of course, as something 
of a complication, her need, each time, to decide. 
She should have to be clear as to how a dove would 
act. She settled it, she thought, well enough this 

284 



BOOK FIFTH 

morning by quite readopting her plan in respect to 
Sir Luke Strett. That, she was pleased to reflect, had 
originally been pitched in the key of a merely irides 
cent drab; and although Mrs. Stringham, after break 
fast, began by staring at it as if it had been a priceless 
Persian carpet suddenly unrolled at her feet, she had 
no scruple, at the end of five minutes, in leaving her 
to make the best of it. "Sir Luke Strett comes, by 
appointment, to see me at eleven, but I 'm going out 
on purpose. He 's to be told, please, deceptively, that 
I'm at home, and you, as my representative, when 
he comes up, are to see him instead. He'll like that, 
this time, better. So do be nice to him." It had taken, 
naturally, more explanation, and the mention, above 
all, of the fact that the visitor was the greatest of doc 
tors; yet when once the key had been offered Susie 
slipped it on her bunch, and her young friend could 
again feel her lovely imagination operate. It operated 
in truth very much as Mrs. Lowder's, at the last, had 
done the night before : it made the air heavy once more 
with the extravagance of assent. It might, afresh, 
almost have frightened our young woman to see how 
people rushed to meet her : had she then so little time 
to live that the road must always be spared her ? It 
was as if they were helping her to take it out on the 
spot. Susie she could n't deny, and did n't pre 
tend to might, of a truth, on her side, have treated 
such news as a flash merely lurid ; as to which, to do 
Susie justice, the pain of it was all there. But, none 
the less, the margin always allowed her young friend 
was all there as well; and the proposal now made her 
what was it in short but Byzantine ? The vision of 

285 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

Milly's perception of the propriety of the matter had, 
at any rate, quickly engulfed, so far as her attitude 
was concerned, any surprise 1 and any shock; so that 
she only desired, the next thing, perfectly to possess 
the facts. Milly could easily speak, on this, as if there 
were only one : she made nothing of such another as 
that she had felt herself menaced. The great fact, in 
fine, was that she knew him to desire just now, more 
than anything else, to meet, quite apart, some one 
interested in her. Who therefore so interested as her 
faithful Susan ? The only other circumstance that, 
by the time she had quitted her friend, she had treated 
as worth mentioning was the circumstance of her hav 
ing at first intended to keep quiet. She had originally 
best seen herself as sweetly secretive. As to that she 
had changed, and her present request was the result. 
She did n't say why she had changed, but she trusted 
her faithful Susan. Their visitor would trust her not 
less, and she herself would adore their visitor. More 
over he would n't the girl felt sure tell her any 
thing dreadful. The worst would be that rns was in 
love and that he needed a confidant to work it. And 
now she was going to the National Gallery. 



VII 



THE idea of the National Gallery had been with her 
from the moment of her hearing from Sir Luke Strett 
about his hour of coming. It had been in her mind 
as a place so meagrely visited, as one of the places 
that had seemed at home one of the attractions of 
Europe and one of its highest aids to culture, but that 
the old story the typical frivolous always ended 
by sacrificing to vulgar pleasures. She had had per 
fectly, at those whimsical moments on the Briinig, the 
half-shamed sense of turning her back on such oppor 
tunities for real improvement as had figured to her, 
from of old, in connexion with the continental tour, 
under the general head of "pictures and things"; and 
at last she knew for what she had done so. The plea 
had been explicit she had done so for life as op 
posed to learning; the upshot of which had been that 
life was now beautifully provided for. In spite of those 
few dips and dashes into the many-coloured stream of 
history for which of late Kate Croy had helped her to 
find time, there were possible great chances she had 
neglected, possible great moments she should, save 
for to-day, have all but missed. She might still, she had 
felt, overtake one or two of them among the Titians 
and the Turners; she had been honestly nursing the 
hour, and, once she was in the benignant halls, her 
faith knew itself justified. It was the air she wanted 
and the world she would now exclusively choose ; the 

287 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

quiet chambers, nobly overwhelming, rich but slightly 
veiled, opened out round her and made her presently 
say " If I could lose myself here ! " There were peo 
ple, people in plenty, but, admirably, no personal 
question. It was immense, outside, the personal 
question ; but she had blissfully left it outside, and the 
nearest it came, for a quarter of an hour, to glimmer 
ing again into view was when she watched for a little 
one of the more earnest of the lady-copyists. Two or 
three in particular, spectacled, aproned, absorbed, 
engaged her sympathy to an absurd extent, seemed to 
show her for the time the right way to live. She should 
have been a lady-copyist it met so the case. The 
case was the case of escape, of living under water, of 
being at once impersonal and firm. There it was be 
fore one one had only to stick and stick. 

Milly yielded to this charm till she was almost 
ashamed ; she watched the lady-copyists till she found 
herself wondering what would be thought by others 
of a young woman, of adequate aspect, who should 
appear to regard them as the pride of the place. She 
would have liked to talk to them, to get, as it figured 
to her, into their lives, and was deterred but by the 
fact that she did n't quite see herself as purchasing 
imitations and yet feared she might excite the expecta 
tion of purchase. She really knew before long that 
what held her was the mere refuge, that something 
within her was after all too weak for the Turners and 
Titians. They joined hands about her in a circle too 
vast, though a circle that a year before she would only 
have desired to trace. They were truly for the larger, 
not for the smaller life, the life of which the actual 

288 



BOOK FIFTH 

pitch, for example, was an interest, the interest of com 
passion, in misguided efforts. She marked absurdly 
her little stations, blinking, in her shrinkage of curi 
osity, at the glorious walls, yet keeping an eye on 
vistas and approaches, so that she should n't be fla 
grantly caught. The vistas and approaches drew her 
in this way from room to room, and she had been 
through many parts of the show, as she supposed, 
when she sat down to rest. There were chairs in scant 
clusters, places from which one could gaze. Milly 
indeed at present fixed her eyes more than elsewhere 
on the appearance, first, that she could n't quite, after 
all, have accounted to an examiner for the order of 
her "schools," and then on that of her being more tired 
than she had meant, in spite of her having been so 
much less intelligent. They found, her eyes, it should 
be added, other occupation as well, which she let 
them freely follow : they rested largely, in her vague 
ness, on the vagueness of other visitors ; they attached 
themselves in especial, with mixed results, to the sur 
prising stream of her compatriots. She was struck 
with the circumstance that the great museum, early 
in August, was haunted with these pilgrims, as also 
with that of her knowing them from afar, marking 
them easily, each and all, and recognising not less 
promptly that they had ever new lights for her new 
lights on their own darkness. She gave herself up at 
last, and it was a consummation like another: what 
she should have come to the National Gallery for to 
day would] be to watch the copyists and reckon the 
Baedekers. That perhaps was the moral of a menaced 
state of health that one would sit in public places 

289 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

and count the Americans. It passed the time in a 
manner; but it seemed already the second line of de 
fence, and this notwithstanding the pattern, so un- 
mistakeable, of her country-folk. They were cut out 
as by scissors, coloured, labelled, mounted ; but their 
relation to her failed to act they somehow did no 
thing for her. Partly, no doubt, they did n't so much 
as notice or know her, did n't even recognise their 
community of collapse with her, the sign on her, as 
she sat there, that for her too Europe was "tough." 
It came to her idly thus for her humour could still 
play that she did n't seem then the same success 
with them as with the inhabitants of London, who 
had taken her up on scarce more of an acquaintance. 
She could wonder if they would be different should 
she go back with this glamour attached; and she 
could also wonder, if it came to that, whether she 
should ever go back. Her friends straggled past, at 
any rate, in all the vividness of their absent criticism, 
and she had even at last the sense of taking a mean 
advantage. 

There was a finer instant, however, at which three 
ladies, clearly a mother and daughters, had paused 
before her under compulsion of a comment apparently 
just uttered by one of them and referring to some ob 
ject on the other side of the room. Milly had her back 
to the object, but her face very much to her young 
compatriot, the one who had spoken and in whose 
look she perceived a certain gloom of recognition. 
Recognition, for that matter, sat confessedly in her 
own eyes : she knew the three, generically, as easily as 
a school-boy with a crib in his lap would know the 

290 



BOOK FIFTH 

answer in class; she felt, like the school-boy, guilty 
enough questioned, as honour went, as to her right 
so to possess, to dispossess, people who had n't con 
sciously provoked her. She would have been able to 
say where they lived, and also how, had the place and 
the way been but amenable to the positive; she bent 
tenderly, in imagination, over marital, paternal Mr. 
Whatever-he-was, at home, eternally named, with all 
the honours and placidities, but eternally unseen and 
existing only as some one who could be financially 
heard from. The mother, the puffed and composed 
whiteness of whose hair had no relation to her ap 
parent age, showed a countenance almost chemically 
clean and dry; her companions wore an air of vague 
resentment humanised by fatigue; and the three were 
equally adorned with short cloaks of coloured cloth 
surmounted by little tartan hoods. The tartans were 
doubtless conceivable as different, but the cloaks, 
curiously, only thinkable as one. " Handsome ? Well, 
if you choose to say so." It was the mother who 
had spoken, who herself added, after a pause during 
which Milly took the reference as to a picture: "In 
the English style." The three pair of eyes had con 
verged, and their possessors had for an instant rested, 
with the effect of a drop of the subject, on this last 
characterisation with that, too, of a gloom not less 
mute in one of the daughters than murmured in the 
other. Milly's heart went out to them while they 
turned their backs; she said to herself that they ought 
to have known her, that there was something between 
them they might have beautifully put together. But 
she had lost the m also they were cold ; they left her 

291 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

in her weak wonder as to what they had been looking 
at. The "handsome" disposed her to turn all the 
more that the " English style " would be the English 
school, which she liked; only she saw, before moving, 
by the array on the side facing her, that she was in 
fact among small Dutch pictures. The action of this 
was again appreciable the dim surmise that it 
would n't then be by a picture that the spring in the 
three ladies had been pressed. It was at all events 
time she should go, and she turned as she got on her 
feet. She had had behind her one of the entrances 
and various visitors who had come in while she sat, 
visitors single and in pairs by one of the former of 
whom she felt her eyes suddenly held. 

This was a gentleman in the middle of the place, 
a gentleman who had removed his hat and was for a 
moment, while he glanced, absently, as she could see, 
at the top tier of the collection, tapping his forehead 
with his pocket-handkerchief. The occupation held 
him long enough to give Milly time to take for granted 
and a few seconds sufficed that his face was the 
object just observed by her friends. This could only 
have been because she concurred in their tribute, 
even qualified; and indeed "the English style" of 
the gentleman perhaps by instant contrast to .the 
American was what had had the arresting power. 
This arresting power, at the same time and that 
was the marvel had already sharpened almost to 
pain, for in the very act of judging the bared head 
with detachment she felt herself shaken by a know 
ledge of it. It was Merton Densher's own, and he 
was standing there, standing long enough uncon- 

292 



BOOK FIFTH 

scious for her to fix him and then hesitate. These 
successions were swift, so that she could still ask her 
self in freedom if she had best let him see her. She 
could still reply to this that she shouldn't like him to 
catch her in the effort to prevent it; and she might 
further have decided that he was too preoccupied to 
see anything had not a perception intervened that 
surpassed the first in violence. She was unable to 
think afterwards how long she had looked at him 
before knowing herself as otherwise looked at; all she 
was coherently to put together was that she had had 
a second recognition without his having noticed her. 
The source of this latter shock was nobody less than 
Kate Croy Kate Croy who was suddenly also in 
the line of vision and whose eyes met her eyes at their 
next movement. Kate was but two yards off Mr. 
Densher was n't alone. Kate's face specifically said 
so, for after a stare as blank at first as Milly's it broke 
into a far smile. That was what, wonderfully in 
addition to the marvel of their meeting passed 
from her for Milly ; the instant reduction to easy terms 
of the fact of their being there, the two young women, 
together. It was perhaps only afterwards that the girl 
fully felt the connexion between this touch and her 
already established conviction that Kate was a pro 
digious person ; yet on the spot she none the less, in 
a degree, knew herself handled and again, as she had 
been the night before, dealt with absolutely even 
dealt with for her greater pleasure. A minute in fine 
had n't elapsed before Kate had somehow made her 
provisionally take everything as natural. The pro 
visional was just the charm acquiring that char- 
293 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

acter from one moment to the other; it represented 
happily so much that Kate would explain on the very 
first chance. This left moreover and that was the 
greatest wonder all due margin for amusement at 
the way things happened, the monstrous oddity of 
their turning up in such a place on the very heels 
of their having separated without allusion to it. The 
handsome girl was thus literally in control of the 
scene by the time Merton Densher was ready to ex 
claim with a high flush or a vivid blush one did n't 
distinguish the embarrassment from the joy "Why 
Miss Theale : fancy ! " and "Why Miss Theale : what 
luck!" 

Miss Theale had meanwhile the sense that for him 
too, on Kate's part, something wonderful and un 
spoken was determinant; and this although, distinctly, 
his companion had no more looked at him with a 
hint than he had looked at her with a question. He 
had looked and was looking only at Milly herself, 
ever so pleasantly and considerately she scarce 
knew what to call it; but without prejudice to her 
consciousness, all the same, that women got out of 
predicaments better than men. The predicament of 
course was n't definite nor phraseable and the way 
they let all phrasing pass was presently to recur to 
our young woman as a characteristic triumph of the 
civilised state; but she took it for granted, insistently, 
with a small private flare of passion, because the one 
thing she could think of to do for him was to show 
him how she eased him ofF. She would really, tired 
and nervous, have been much disconcerted if the op 
portunity in question had n't saved her. It was what 

294 



BOOK FIFTH 

had saved her most, what had made her, after the 
first few seconds, almost as brave for Kate as Kate 
was for her, had made her only ask herself what their 
friend would like of her. That he was at the end of 
three minutes, without the least complicated refer 
ence, so smoothly " their " friend was just the effect of 
their all being sublimely civilised. The flash in which 
he saw this was, for Milly, fairly inspiring to that 
degree in fact that she was even now, on such a plane, 
yearning to be supreme. It took, no doubt, a big dose 
of inspiration to treat as not funny or at least as 
not unpleasant the anomaly, for Kate, that she 
knew their gentleman, and for herself, that Kate was 
spending the morning with him ; but everything con 
tinued to make for this after Milly had tasted of her 
draught. She was to wonder in subsequent reflexion 
what in the world they had actually said, since they 
had made such a success of what they did n't say; the 
sweetness of the draught for the time, at any rate, 
was to feel success assured. What depended on this 
for Mr. Densher was all obscurity to her, and she 
perhaps but invented the image of his need as a short 
cut to accommodation. Whatever the facts, their 
perfect manners, all round, saw them through. The 
finest part of Milly's own inspiration, it may further 
be mentioned, was the quick perception that what 
would be of most service was, so to speak, her own 
native wood-note. She had long been conscious with 
shame for her thin blood, or at least for her poor econ 
omy, of her unused margin as an American girl 
closely indeed as in English air the text might ap 
pear to cover the page. She still had reserves of spon- 
295 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

taneity, if not of comicality; so that all this cash in 
hand could now find employment. She became as 
spontaneous as possible and as American as it might 
conveniently appeal to Mr. Densher, after his travels, 
to find her. She said things in the air, and yet flattered 
herself that she struck him as saying them not in the 
tone of agitation but in the tone of New York. In 
the tone of New Yorl^ agitation was beautifully dis 
counted, and she had now a sufficient view of how 
much it might accordingly help her. 

The help was fairly rendered before they left the 
place; when her friends presently accepted her in 
vitation to adjourn with her to luncheon at her hotel 
it was in Fifth Avenue that the meal might have 
waited. Kate had never been there so straight, but 
Milly was at present taking her; and if Mr. Densher 
had been he had at least never had to come so fast. 
She proposed it as the natural thing proposed it 
as the American girl; and she saw herself quickly 
justified by the pace at which she was followed. The 
beauty of the case was that to do it all she had only to 
appear to take Kate's hint. This had said in its fine 
first smile "Oh yes, our look's queer but give me 
time"; and the American girl could give time as no 
body else could. What Milly thus gave she therefore 
made them take even if, as they might surmise, it 
was rather more than they wanted. In the porch of 
the museum she expressed her preference for a four- 
wheeler; they would take their course in that guise 
precisely to multiply the minutes. She was more than 
ever justified by the positive charm that her spirit 
imparted even to their use of this conveyance; and she 

296 



BOOK FIFTH 

touched her highest point that is certainly for her 
self as she ushered her companions into the pre 
sence of Susie. Susie was there with luncheon as well 
as with her return in prospect; and nothing could 
now have filled her own consciousness more to the 
brim than to see this good friend take in how little she 
was abjectly anxious. The cup itself actually offered 
to this good friend might in truth well be startling, 
for it was composed beyond question of ingredients 
oddly mixed. She caught Susie fairly looking at her 
as if to know whether she had brought in guests to 
hear Sir Luke Strett's report. Well, it was better her 
companion should have too much than too little to 
wonder about; she had come out "anyway," as they 
said at home, for the interest of the thing; and interest 
truly sat in her eyes. Milly was none the less, at the 
sharpest crisis, a little sorry for her; she could of neces 
sity extract from the odd scene so comparatively little 
of a soothing secret. She saw Mr. Dens her suddenly 
popping up, but she saw nothing else that had hap 
pened. She saw in the same way her young friend 
indifferent to her young friend's doom, and she lacked 
what would explain it. The only thing to keep her in 
patience was the way, after luncheon, Kate almost, as 
might be said, made up to her. This was actually 
perhaps as well what most kept Milly herself in pa 
tience. It had in fact for our young woman a positive 
beauty was so marked as a deviation from the 
handsome girl's previous courses. Susie had been a 
bore to the handsome girl, and the change was now 
suggestive. The two sat together, after they had risen 
from table, in the apartment in which they had 

297 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

lunched, making it thus easy for the other guest and 
his entertainer to sit in the room adjacent. This, for 
the latter personage, was the beauty; it was almost, 
on Kate's part, like a prayer to be relieved. If she 
honestly liked better to be "thrown with" Susan 
Shepherd than with their other friend, why that said 
practically everything. It did n't perhaps altogether 
say why she had gone out with him for the morning, 
but it said, as one thought, about as much as she 
could say to his face. 

Little by little indeed, under the vividness of Kate's 
behaviour, the probabilities fell back into their order. 
Merton Densher was in love and Kate could n't help 
it could only be sorry and kind : would n't that, 
without wild flurries, cover everything ? Milly at all 
events tried it as a cover, tried it hard, for the time; 
pulled it over her, in the front, the larger room, drew 
it up to her chin with energy. If it did n't, so treated, 
do everything for her, it did so much that she could 
herself supply the rest. She made that up by the in 
terest of her great question, the question of whether, 
seeing him once more, with all that, as she called it to 
herself, had come and gone, her impression of him 
would be different from the impression received in 
New York. That had held her from the moment of 
their leaving the museum; it kept her company 
through their drive and during luncheon; and now 
that she was a quarter of an hour alone with him it 
became acute. She was to feel at this crisis that no 
clear, no common answer, no direct satisfaction on 
this point, was to reach her; she was to see her ques 
tion itself simply go to pieces. She could n't tell if he 

298 



BOOK FIFTH 

were different or not, and she did n't know nor care 
if she were : these things had ceased to matter in the 
light of the only thing she did know. This was that 
she liked him, as she put it to herself, as much as ever; 
and if that were to amount to liking a new person the 
amusement would be but the greater. She had 
thought him at first very quiet, in spite of his recovery 
from his original confusion; though even the shade 
of bewilderment, she yet perceived, had not been due 
to such vagueness on the subject of her reintensified 
identity as the probable sight, over there, of many 
thousands of her kind would sufficiently have justi 
fied. No, he was quiet, inevitably, for the first half of 
the time, because Milly's own lively line the line 
of spontaneity made everything else relative; and 
because too, so far as Kate was spontaneous, it was 
ever so finely in the air among them that the normal 
pitch must be kept. Afterwards, when they had got 
a little more used, as it were, to each other's separate 
felicity, he had begun to talk more, clearly bethinking 
himself at a given moment of what bis natural lively 
line would be. It would be to take for granted she 
must wish to hear of the States, and to give her in its 
order everything he had seen and done there. He 
abounded, of a sudden he almost insisted ; he re 
turned, after breaks, to the charge ; and the effect was 
perhaps the more odd as he gave no clue whatever to 
what he had admired, as he went, or to what he 
had n't. He simply drenched her with his sociable 
story especially during the time they were away 
from the others. She had stopped then being Ameri 
can all to let him be English ; a permission of which 

299 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

he took, she could feel, both immense and uncon 
scious advantage. She had really never cared less for 
the States than at this moment; but that had nothing 
to do with the matter. It would have been the occa 
sion of her life to learn about them, for nothing could 
put him off, and he ventured on no reference to what 
had happened for herself. It might have been almost 
as if he had known that the greatest of all these ad 
ventures was her doing just what she did then. 

It was at this point that she saw the smash of her 
great question complete, saw that all she had to do 
with was the sense of being there with him. And 
there was no chill for this in what she also presently 
saw that, however he had begun, he was now act 
ing from a particular desire, determined either by new 
facts or new fancies, to be like every one else, sim- 
plifyingly "kind" to her. He had caught on already 
as to manner fallen into line with every one else; 
and if his spirits verily bad gone up it might well be 
that he had thus felt himself lighting on the remedy 
for all awkwardness. Whatever he did or he did n't 
Milly knew she should still like him there was no 
alternative to that; but her heart could none the less 
sink a little on feeling how much his view of her was 
destined to have in common with as she now sighed 
over it the view. She could have dreamed of his 
not having the view, of his having something or other, 
if need be quite viewless, of his own ; but he might 
have what he could with least trouble, and the view 
would n't be after all a positive bar to her seeing 
him. The defect of it in general if she might so un 
graciously criticise was that, by its sweet universal- 

300 



BOOK FIFTH 

ity, it made relations rather prosaically a matter of 
course. It anticipated and superseded the likewise 
sweet operation of real affinities. It was this that 
was doubtless marked in her power to keep him now 
this and her glassy lustre of attention to his pleas 
antness about the scenery in the Rockies. She was in 
truth a little measuring her success in detaining him 
by Kate's success in "standing" Susan. It would n't 
be, if she could help it, Mr. Densher who should first 
break down. Such at least was one of the forms of 
the girl's inward tension ; but beneath even this deep 
reason was a motive still finer. What she had left at 
home on going out to give it a chance was meanwhile 
still, was more sharply and actively, there. What had 
been at the top of her mind about it and then been 
violently pushed down this quantity was again 
working up. As soon as their friends should go Susie 
would break out, and what she would break out upon 
would n't be interested in that gentleman as she 
had more than once shown herself the personal 
fact of Mr. Densher. Milly had found in her face at 
luncheon a feverish glitter, and it told what she was 
full of. She did n't care now for Mr. Densher's per 
sonal facts. Mr. Densher had risen before her only 
to find his proper place in her imagination already of 
a sudden occupied. His personal fact failed, so far as 
she was concerned, to be personal, and her companion 
noticed the failure. This could only mean that she was 
full to the brim of Sir Luke Strett and of what she had 
had from him. What had she had from him ? It was 
indeed now working upward again that Milly would 
do well to know, though knowledge looked stiff in the 

301 



THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 

light of Susie's glitter. It was therefore on the whole 
because Densher's young hostess was divided from it 
by so thin a partition that she continued to cling to 
the Rockies. 



END OF VOLUME I 



<fec fctoertfbe press 

CAMBRIDGE . MASSACHUSETTS 
U . S . A 



fj. 



PS 

2116 
W5 

1909 
v.l 



James, Henry 

The wings of the dove'